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Census 2011

March 12th, 2011 by innerhippy

Just got my census form through the post and the prospect of picking up my pen is making me very uncomfortable.

I came across this article in Computer Weekly:

Glen Watson, the census director, refutes claims that data would be subject to the Patriot Act (as it is being processed by the US company Lockheed Martin), on the following grounds:

“Under the contractual and operational arrangements we have put in place, no employees of Lockheed Martin UK or of its US parent or of any other US company will be able to access personal census data. The US Patriot Act could not therefore be used to access such data,” he said.

What he is saying is that they will be processing the data without actually having any access to it! Wow. I’m just imagining what the grant permissions would look like on their database…

So, does anyone know if there are safeguards to prevent our data from leaking over to the US? If the director of census doesn’t understand how a computer works, can I assume the entire operation is flawed?

Can I object to completing the census on conscientious grounds? (ie the conscious part of my brain is saying it’s being run by a bunch of fools)

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Radio4 play gentle with Anonymous

December 9th, 2010 by innerhippy

This morning we were treated to Evan Davis interviewing a “representative” of Anonymous “coldblood”

I was expecting a full on assault – to vilify the 22 year old as an internet thug, a hoodlum, the kind of scumbag that middle England DailMailers would like to see locked up, or at lest publicly flogged with wet kippers.

But no, we were treated to an interesting insight into the mind of the bright, young hacktavist who, to his credit, represented his cause with aplomb (being interviewed by radio4 would have scared the crap out me).

Credit to Evan for being fair.

Hackers are nor crackers. Hackers build stuff (small things like the Internet, open source software etc). Crackers break stuff and steal things. Although the talents and skills are similar, the intentions are very different. Similar to a kitchen knife – a lethal weapon or handy utensil for chopping tasty things.

But. Piss off the hackers and they’ll bite back. Hackers are also driven by a fierce sense of social justice and democracy. If any government thinks they can censor the internet <insert random wikileaks reference> then they clearly don’t understand what they are up against. These hacktivists will run rings around any organisation <insert visa/paypal/amazon/swiss banks  reference> who try to attack the freedoms upon which the internet was created. (One more thing – Switzerland? Moral standpoint? WTF??)

Is this the start of anarchy? Are we seeing a fundamental shift in the balance of power? Are governments getting a tiny bit nervous?

I hope so. The battle lines are being drawn,and I know who I’m backing.

Maybe even Evan’s gentle approach will win the hearts of Tunbridge Wells….

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Why can’t I buy decent music?

August 29th, 2010 by innerhippy

First, a qualification: good as in audio quality, not musical content. The latter is subjective, the former is absolute.

I’m stuck in the middle of everything.

I’m not a parasitic downloader/filesharer who amasses stuff for free just because I can. I’m not an iTunes/Apple slave. I don’t have a Spotify account. I am familiar with The Pirate Bay. I appreciate excellent audio quality. DRM offends me. I don’t buy CDs anymore (I’d just rip ’em and sling ’em). I do have a high-end hard-disk music system (squeezebox) with all my old CDs rippled to FLAC format. I do not listen to compressed crap, mp3 AAC et al. I want to download top quality music on my terms.


I want to support musicians.

So here’s the deal: I want a lossless audio format that I can download.  And I want to pay for it. I better repeat that, I WANT TO PAY FOR IT! But I can’t because the only option available to me is to download crappy mp3 format or give my first born to Apple. No thanks.

Here’s how it works: I often have Radio Paradise playing around my house through 3 squeezebox players, and whenever I hear a tune that I really like I jump on the artist’s website and check to see if I can buy their offerings in FLAC format. 99.99% of the time the answer is no. The 0.01% was today when I checkout out Blackstratblues. Clicked on Download, selected FLAC format – followed a link sent via email – downloaded their entire album (which is excellent) in 10 mins, then followed up their invitation to make a contribution to the band and fired off £5. Now that’s how it should work – the artists being rewarded directly for making great music. Nice.

I’d do this far more often if only it were possible. But it’s not. Apple have a lossless format for iTunes calles ALAC. Why have you done this Apple, why? You’ve done it again – tried to castrate an existing technology for your own market greed (just as Microsoft did with all those internet standards and protocols – note to Mr S. Jobs: Microsoft lost those battles and so shall you). Why not just use FLAC and not reinvent something that’s not quite as good just to include evil DRM?

My money is ready to be spent but nobody’s listening.

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In Facebook We Trusted

May 14th, 2010 by innerhippy

So, Facebook’s insidious privacy policy has finally broken into the mainstream media. ‘Bout time. And there’s something significant that Zuckerberg et al. is either ignoring or doesn’t quite get – and that’s the trust model between users and information brokers like Facebook.

On Wednesday I went to an interesting discussion “Is the Internet Safe for Free Speech“, in which Richard Allan, Facebook’s Director of EU Policy, defended their recent controversial policy changes. He didn’t get it either.

When geeks create virtual shiny new toys for people to play with, there is a sense of altruistic satisfaction which often serves as sufficient reward alone. That’s why I create shiny new toys at work and at home – because I love making them. But this is also an engineering task in which the toy’s environment is a vital consideration. At work it’s called professionalism, at home social responsibility.

Allan argued that Facebook’s engineers we so passionate and so enthusiastic that sometimes they forgot to engineer a remove button into their toy. Either that’s utter rubbish or just plain terrifying, you decide.

But here’s the key – people will only engage with you and your ‘product’ as long as the net benefit is in their favour. Yes, they will accept some monetisation (toll), but principally the user is in charge – they hold the trust. Or to borrow the maxim from an ancient world, “the customer is king”. Yes Mark, even when the toys can’t be bought.

The trust model is simple: the company must act in the best interest of its customers, and not for itself.

Over time, Facebook has eroded this trust to breaking point. And now the trust is gone. Boof! The perception that Facebook is a friendly shiny toy for us all to enjoy has evaporated. We all loved Facebook because it empowered us. We now see Facebook as nothing more than a shiny honey pot to trade our digital existence.

Next chapter, enter diaspora, a bunch of enthusiastic kids who want to create what we all thought Facebook was. They may not have the perfect shiny toy just yet, but one thing’s apparent – they do get it, and for that I wish them well.