The Null Device


Futurephones seem like a bit of a gimmick to me. I mean, it would be cool to have something with a naff 640x480 camera that can zap blurry, authentically crappy-looking pictures to your friends/moblog in realtime, and that you can kill hours of your life playing Java games on. And polyphonic ringtones would be cool too; I must confess that the bleepy version of the City of Lost Children theme on my Nokia 3310 is getting old. Nonetheless, I couldn't justify the enormous financial millstone of buying one of the damned things, while my 3310 still does the job I use it for and does it admirably, and there are CDs/VST plugins/airline tickets I could better spend that money on. But this has made me think again about my priorities, and has nudged a Java-enabled phone up the list a little. The ability to run ICQ on a mobile phone, keep in touch with people on the Net worldwide -- and pay a fraction of what SMS messages cost for the privilege -- would be hella doovy.

Now let's hope they port Gaim or Trillian or something to J2ME, so AIM, Yahoo and Jabber (and MSN, if Microsoft don't insist on being asshats about it) work as well.

(Btw, does that mean that each futurephone has an IP address and is pingable whilst switched on? Or would Mobicq and such apps open a socket through a proxy at the telco's gateway to the Internet?)

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Gibson's law applied to blackmail: Dutch blackmailer uses steganography to cover tracks, instructing victim to post bank card info encoded in a photograph in a fake car ad on an auction site. He then accessed the site through a US-based anonymiser. Mind you, the fact that the FBI nailed him in 24 hours nonetheless is somewhat thought-provoking. (via Techdirt)

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The street finds its own uses for draconian copyright laws, it seems. In the U.S. it recently became possible to turn an IP address and a timestamp into the complete details of the person using said address at that time, simply by filling out a 1-page form claiming that the user is violating your copyrights. Not surprisingly, these laws are being abused; recently a porn site has issued subpoenas to an ISP to discover the identities of subscribers. It is not clear what they want with the identities, but given how the porn industry attracts operators of above-average ethical flexibility (thank the Judaeo-Christian anti-sex ethic for that), all sorts of possibilities come to mind. And where pornographers go now, investigators, psycho ex-boy/girlfriends and generic marketing weasel types will go tomorrow.

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Things I have been listening to over the past few days:

  • Broadcast, Haha Sound -- the followup to The Noise Made By People, follows on from it, combining '60s retro sounds, sweet vocals, clunky basslines and jangly tweeness with glitchy experimental electronica (which makes sense, with them being on Warp and all). The first song sounds like Julie Andrews or something, whereas the second one is the token attempt to ride the electroclash bandwagon (thankfully the rest of the album leaves that particular well-flogged horse carcass alone). Some of the interludes are quite nice too; in particular, the bad-acid-trip quality of Black Umbrellas.
  • Pizzicato 5, Happy End of the World -- Electronica combined with shagadelic retro kitsch, stylised as only the Japanese can do it. The lyrics are mostly in Japanese, and the music varies from drum & bass and house to Bacharach-hop, vintage film scores and lounge exotica. Very cute and quite groovy.
  • Cornelius, Point -- I didn't like this much; it's a bit on the bland side. Also, the birdsong samples sound like something you'd pick up in a New Age crystal shop.
  • Death By Chocolate, s/t, and Zap the World -- The product of an English schoolgirl's obsession with chocky bars and the Swinging Sixties. Wears its retro stylings very much on its sleeve, and is also interspersed with short spoken-word pieces in which the narrator describes what various colours mean to her and enumerates her favourite things. Most of the music is somewhere in Mid-State Orange territory. Possibly too clever for its own good.
  • Chicks on Speed, The Rereleases of the Unreleases -- A collection of tracks from Chicks on Speed combines laptop electronics, punk sensibilities and ironic detachment. Has some good moments (the ironic house track Glamour Girl, and their cover of The Normal's Warm Leatherette) and a lot of filler, including many <1-minute filler tracks. Annoyingly, though, the liner notes are printed inside the packaging, which means that the only way to read them is to tear it apart. Which was probably some sort of artistic statement.
  • Manitoba, Up In Flames -- this has been growing on me. Think My Bloody Valentine meets Múm. Understated, reverb-drenched vocals, glitchy beats and layers of environmental sounds, processed guitars, tinkling music-box sounds and odd instrumentals. I'll probably get Start Breaking My Heart, their (more electronic-sounding) first album, soon.

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It's ironic that this should happen two days after Wesley Willis passed away: Thames Valley police launch manhunt for Batman, after the superhero (or an impostor) beat another man unconscious outside a cafe.

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