The Null Device
Yahoo Instant Messenger have changed their protocol yet again, locking out third-party clients. Cerulean Studios, makers of Windows multi-protocol client Trillian, crack the new protocol within 24 hours; shortly later, Gaim announce a new version, with a number of fixes, including the Yahoo fix. Which will probably filter through to the Debian package system sometime within the next 2 to 4 weeks
(Hmm; do I wait for the Debian package, or download and compile my own Gaim, taking charge of that package? I'll wait. A funny thing happens when a vendor shows the will to lock people out (as Yahoo have done before); people stop relying on them and move to other systems. At the moment, I don't expect Yahoo IM to work and generally don't bother with it. Though some of the other features, like MSN file transfers and user-icon dragging, look good.)
Speaking of MSN, it's reassuring that Microsoft haven't made good on the vague noises they made some time ago about locking unapproved clients out of their network. Perhaps they've realised that that would encourage people to move to other systems (read: AIM/ICQ); or perhaps they just haven't gotten around to it.
According to findings in last month's issue of Psychological Science, happy people tend to be nasty. The happier your mood is, researchers claim, the more likely you are to make bigoted judgments, like deciding that someone is guilty of a crime simply because they're a member of a minority:
One interesting hypothesis, though, is that happy people have an ''everything is fine'' attitude that reduces the motivation for analytical thought. So they fall back on stereotypes -- including malicious ones.
Elsewhere, there are other arguments against the idea of happiness as an absolute good:
There is one bit of the world that happy people do see in an irrationally rosy light: themselves. As the British psychologist Richard P. Bentall has observed, ''There is consistent evidence that happy people overestimate their control over environmental events (often to the point of perceiving completely random events as subject to their will), give unrealistically positive evaluations of their own achievements, believe that others share their unrealistic opinions about themselves and show a general lack of evenhandedness when comparing themselves to others.'' Indeed, Bentall has proposed that happiness be classified as a psychiatric disorder.
Over the last few decades, it is precisely the groups that have made the most social progress in the United States -- women and educated African-Americans -- that have reported declines in their level of happiness. On reflection, this is not surprising. As education and freedom increase, desires -- and unmet desires -- inevitably multiply; our well-feeling may decrease, even as life becomes fuller and more meaningful. In Eastern nations like China, where happiness as a goal is less highly rated, people report lower levels of life satisfaction, but they also have lower suicide rates.
Among the names attached to recent offers of black-market anatomical/financial services: Houston Spangler (from Germany, no less), Felix Crockett, Queen L. Butcher and Mallory Justice.
Among recent news stories: intelligence "chatter" suggests impending al-Qaeda terrorist attack, possibly timed to coincide with the US elections (could this be the much-speculated-about October Surprise?). Meanwhile, in Israel, a group of soldiers are being investigated over an art exhibition detailing the brutalisation of Palestinians; it seems (from the report) to be more a case of them acting as whistle-blowers than Lynndie England Mk. 2. In the United Nations, the US has given up on renewing its immunity from war crimes prosecution, after realising that they weren't going to get it; however, in Iraq, they are pushing for immunity from prosecution under Iraqi law, with, of course, the full agreement of the Iraqi people. And in England and Wales, authorities are re-examining more than 100 murders which they suspect of being "honour killings"; there appears to be a sophisticated infrastructure for such killings, with "bounty hunters" making a business out of tracking down victims.