The Null Device
Owen Williams proposes that hardware reviews should add a rating for "openness", or how unrestrictive and flexible the technology used is. At one end, you'd get things that use cryptography to keep the user on a short leash, and that you can do very little with, such as the DivX video player and major-label online music-rental services; at the other end, you get completely hackable devices, like commodity PC hardware. For example, MP3 players which act like USB/FireWire disks (like the iPod or MP3 keyrings) would get a higher Openness score than ones which require special software to "check in" files (like the Dell Jukebox). (I imagine that devices like the Archos Jukebox would get the highest rating, because they not only act as standard USB disks, but allow you to install your own firmware and hack the hardware to your heart's content; which is how things should be.) (via bOING bOING)
Steve Jackson Games (the Texan role-playing publisher best known for bringing out the Illuminati card game and having been raided by the Secret Service) are bringing out a new role-playing game exploring the effects of technology and social trends on culture and what it means to be human. Scenario books included in the Transhuman Space game will cover issues such as the emergence of a totalitarian intellectual-property dystopia, memetic engineering and colonisation of the solar system, as well as standbys such as what claim to personhood things like AIs have. There's more information here. (via worldchanging)
Public transport on New Year's Eve in Melbourne was, once again, a cock-up; they did, generously, run extra "late" services, but only as late as 1:30am, and the crowds waiting for trains were so large that police had to keep people from boarding the already packed trains. Taxis were also hard to come by, even with an additional $5 surcharge to encourage drivers to work, so a lot of people ended up walking home (which isn't so bad if you live in North Fitzroy or somewhere, but you wouldn't want to do it back to Nunawading or Deer Park), or else staggering around drunkenly, killing time until the morning's trams and trains kicked in (and so did the record 11% fare hikes).
Are the government and the public transport operators trying to deliberately encourage people to abandon public transport and get in their cars? Perhaps there's a property developer with shares in Connex or Yarra Trams and plans for all that land currently lost to railway lines or something.
There have been mass arrests in the People's Democracy of Cuba after the official Communist Party newspaper printed a photograph of Fidel Castro doctored to look like Hitler. The offending issues of Granma (which is presumably similar in tone to Pravda before it turned into the Weekly World News) were quickly retrieved by the secret police; the efficiency of this operation evident in the vagueness of descriptions of the photograph, which few people have actually seen (or will admit to having):
Some say that those seated in the background of the photograph, which was published on December 4, have had their glasses darkened, to make them look like mafiosi, or that they have had white lines superimposed on their lips, suggesting that they dare not speak out against Dr Castro's wishes.
Comment shamelessly stolen from someone else's a LiveJournal:
I wonder how long it will be before certain Christian Conservatives will argue that the earthquake in Bam, Iran was God's wrath against Iran for supporting terro...
Oh, wait. I forgot. God only inflicts disaster on US because of gay firemen.
(from Lt. Wilkes)
Your Humble Narrator spent this New Year's Eve at the Cue Bar, seeing Dandelion Wine and The Beautiful Few (who combine sardonic social commentary with an Australian New Wave aesthetic, like some cross between Pulp and The Models). All in all, a fairly typical NYE.
On the way back, walking up Brunswick St., I realised that Fitzroy has turned into Prahran; everywhere I went, I could hear the muscular thump of house music. Mind you, we're probably behind the curve here; in Prahran, they're probably into more fashionable things than house music, like NME '70s-Revival Rock or daggy 1980s top-40 hits or cunnilingus-themed rap songs or something.