The Null Device


An interesting and insightful speech by Richard Stallman on copyright, globalisation, E-books and the recording racket:

copyright law no longer acts as an industrial regulation; it is now a Draconian restriction on a general public. It used to be a restriction on publishers for the sake of authors. Now, for practical purposes, itÂ’s a restriction on a public for the sake of publishers.
The Soviet Union treated it as very important. There this unauthorized copying and re-distribution was known as Samizdat and to stamp it out, they developed a series of methods: First, guards watching every piece of copying equipment to check what people were copying to prevent forbidden copying. Second, harsh punishments for anyone caught doing forbidden copying. You could sent to Siberia. Third, soliciting informers, asking everyone to rat on their neighbors and co-workers to the information police. Fourth, collective responsibility -- You! You're going to watch that group! If I catch any of them doing forbidden copying, you are going to prison. So watch them hard. And, fifth, propaganda, starting in childhood to convince everyone that only a horrible enemy of the people would ever do this forbidden copying. The U.S. is using all of these measures now.


Cycling '74, purveyors of avant-garde creative audio software such as Max/MSP and Pluggo, have just launched a record label. Called c74, the label will release music in all genres, as long as it's generated with Cycling '74 software. (Which means there'll probably be a good representation of electroacoustic noise sculpture and experimental ambient glitchcore electronica, and a paucity of straight four-on-the-floor doof.)


Ralph Osterhout worked designing weaponry for the US Navy Seals, now works as a toy designer. New Scientist has an interesting interview on the subject of high-tech toy design.

Some parents say: "When I was a kid we had plain wooden blocks and we were really encouraged to use our imagination." But I think we are much more creative today. Give a child complex three- dimensional puzzles that are very sophisticated and you stimulate a higher level of creativity. How do you expect a kid who plays with wooden blocks to come up with a new receptor blocker for HIV later in life?

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Bloggo!. (nice one, Meg...)


There is now an asteroid named Arthurdent; it was so christened by a German astronomer who identified it in 1998, and confirmed by the International Astronomical Union -- one day before DNA passed away. (via Found)

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What do spelling checkers say about modern culture? The spelling checker in Microsoft Word 97 has some telltale gaps in its lexicon:

Your computer knows baddies Lenin and Trotsky, but not peace lovers Lennon, McCartney, and Starr. It remembers Auschwitz but not Woodstock. Your spell-check will gleefully accept Ku Klux Klan (try typing it in lower kase, your komputer will gently suggest that you kapitalize your k's). Ominously, Word 97 acknowledges German politicians Helmut Kohl and Gerhard Schroeder - we may not know exactly what these men are up to but we can assume, from the company they keep in our spell check, that they are bad, bad men.

culture evil genocide hitler lenin microsoft pessimism spelling checker war 0

Those guardians of morality in the One Nation party have called on the new givernor-general designate, Anglican Archbishop Hollingworth, to publicly condemn homosexuality, and move towards "strong moral values" (such as, presumably, hate).

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Corporate globalisation: Fresh from their success with the WIPO treaty (which begat the DMCA, the EU Directive on Copyright and other such draconian laws), entertainment and media conglomerates are pushing for a treaty requiring nations to enforce other nations' judgments. This treaty is also favoured by European governments, hoping that they can get neo-Nazi web sites banned worldwide. Mind you, it would also enable corporations to shop around for the most friendly copyright/patent laws and have them enforced worldwide, as well as require the US government to remove Falun Gong websites if the Chinese government complains, not to mention a whole host of other consequences.


Overpaid, oversexed and over here: Those damn Seppos can't leave their guns alone for a minute, it seems. U.S. soldiers serving in military exercises in Australia have been taking shots at protected wildlife, to take home as trophies, apparently forgetting that this is a Communist country where you're not allowed to shoot things just because you feel like it. Mind you, this is coming from Vladimir Putin's propaganda organ, Pravda; make of that what you will.


Age-old sectarian enmities, passed down from generation to generation, have found a home in ethnic soccer clubs in Australia. During the 1990s, Serbian and Croatian fans would riot during games, and sometimes vandalise or torch the rivals' soccer clubs; then the authorities stepped in and banned clubs from advertising ethnic affiliation, forcing these traditions underground. Recently, a Serbian player has been accused of making a three-fingered salute at Bosnian Muslims during a match, starting a riot. He initially denied it and then claimed that the salute was an innocuous "Christian Orthodox salute". An Islamic group is claiming that the salute refers to the Serbian practice of amputating Muslims' fingers, as practiced during the Bosnian conflict.

Soccer isn't the only place where such ancient hatreds are revived by new generations of tribal warriors; a predominantly Greek graffiti gang in Melbourne has been spraying "DEATH TO TURKS" on walls next to their tags. Given the popularity of hip-hop culture among second-generation ethnic youth, I wonder how long it is until we have ethnic-Australian rap groups bustin' rhymes about their ancestral enemies' historical atrocities and how it's payback time.