The Null Device


Here's something good: the Simputer, a sustainable, low-cost computer for the developing world. Developed in India, it's based on an Intel CPU and Linux, has a touch-sensitive screen, flash RAM, built-in telephone modem and USB port. The Simputer will cost about US$200 to produce, and the designs will be publicly available, giving hope to the dream of an affordable humanist computing platform for most of the world's population.

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You know those spam emails that fill up your mailbox offering wealth, sex and freedom from debt? Well, A journalist recently decided to take up the offers in a week's worth of spam, and report back the details. Here is the dirt on fake university degrees, instant credit repair, "weight loss" products and that "Internet Spy" thing; not surprisingly, it's all a ripoff, if not criminal fraud, and a number of these companies are on the run from various law-enforcement and regulatory agencies.


An interesting interview with Noam Chomsky about globalisation, biotech, the IMF and all those things those reds and ferals are jumping up and down about:

Debt is not valid if it's essentially imposed by force. The Third World debt is odious debt. That's even been recognized by the U.S. representative at the IMF, Karen Lissaker, an international economist, who pointed out a couple of years ago that if we were to apply the principles of odious debt, most of the Third World debt would disappear.
For example, if somebody comes into your office from the university biology department and says, You're going to be a subject in an experiment. I'm going to stick electrodes into your brain and measure this, that, and the other thing, you're permitted to say, I'm sorry, I don't want to be a subject. They are not allowed to come back to you and say, You have to be, unless you can provide scientific evidence that this is going to harm you. But the U.S. is insisting on exactly that internationally.
The international economic arrangements, the so-called free trade agreements, are basically designed to maintain that. They undergird what's called a "flexible labor market," meaning that people have no security. The growing worker insecurity that Alan Greenspan once said was one of the major factors in the fairy-tale economy. If people are afraid, they don't have job security, they're just not going to ask for better conditions.

(thanks, Toby!)


Meme watch: "FOR SALE" stickers have started spontaneously appearing on the signs of troubled dot-coms in California's sprawling technology parks.


A new form of youthful delinquency is troubling Japan's salarymen and respectable commuters: a growing subculture of trendy young women using their commuting time to give themselves elaborate cosmetic treatments.


Up here for thinking! Biologists in Norway have come up with an innovative way of finding genes likely to be connected; by searching academic papers. They have developed a program which scans titles and abstracts of papers in a publicly available database for the names of genes, and determines genes' probable connectedness by whether their names appear in papers together, and which other keywords appear. As such they have made a step towards extracting patterns from the ever-growing "biobibliome", or body of published papers in biology.


Making consumerism fun: Taking product placement to a new level, a Los Angeles company is planning an all-product-placement movie. Foodfight! will feature animated brand mascots uniting to fight "Nazi-like brand X products" that are trying to take over a supermarket. (via Plastic)

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