The Null Device


The details of the Canon PowerShot G6 have leaked out; it appears to be basically a G5 with a 7.1 megapixel CCD, which is to say, not much changed from my old(ish) G2, other than in resolution (and apparently improved image processing algorithms a few generations ago). It'd have been nice if they had put in some better connectivity (Bluetooth, for example, or even WiFi); or, for that matter, more than 3x optical zoom. (via gizmodo)

(One of these days, I'll upgrade my camera; probably in the next round of gadget-buying. The G2 is a good unit (though with a resolution far below newer cameras), but is a bit bulky. Something that does (most of) what the Gx can (optical zoom, aperture/focus control) and yet is smaller would be good. These days, there are much smaller 4MP cameras; how their image quality compares to the G2, however, is unknown.)

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An interesting, if characteristically boosterist, WIRED article on Dubai, the United Arab Emirates' high-tech city and a sort of Singapore or Hong Kong of the Middle East:

Last year, only 17 percent of Dubai's gross domestic product came from oil revenue, behind services, transportation, tourism, and hospitality. In comparison, the petroleum sector accounts for 45 percent of Saudi Arabia's GDP.Dubai also stands in contrast to the Saudi kingdom in another Arab-world indicator, the role of women. Where Saudi women are still waiting for the right to drive, Dubai women play a pivotal role in society. "My success means success for other women here," says Sheikha Lubna al Qasimi, the CEO of Tejari, an Internet business-to-business procurement firm, noting that women form 65 percent of Internet City's workforce.
What Dubai is today, Baghdad was 1,200 years ago. "This island, between the Tigris in the east and the Euphrates in the west, is a marketplace for the world," wrote Al Mansur, the eighth-century founder of Baghdad. "It will surely be the most flourishing city in the world."

Dubai is also home to the region's two independent news channels: firstly Al-Jazeera, often touted as the "Arab CNN" (or perhaps the "Arab FOXNews"), and more recently, al-Arabiya, an even further refinement of the formula, without the emotive bluster al-Jazeera, for all its revolutionary changes, still shares with the region's state-run media:

Negm proposed an experiment: No Al Arabiya report could last longer than two and a half minutes. Gone was the long-windedness and speechifying. "You don't have to say that something's a crime against humanity," says Ismail. "If it is, people can see that for themselves. At times of crises people like emotionalism. If you don't respond to emotional needs, you're accused of being detached. But if you do respond to the hurt with emotionalism, it creates a vicious cycle. If we're going to get out of this cycle, we have to be rational, critical."
That rhetoric-wary approach has gotten Al Arabiya in plenty of trouble. Recently, the station clashed with the Palestinian Authority, which expects the Arab press to take up its cause unequivocally and refer to any Palestinians killed by the Israeli Defense Force as martyrs. When one of Al Arabiya's West Bank reporters used instead the politically and religiously neutral word dead, he was rifle-butted by members of Yasser Arafat's ruling Fatah party.

Meanwhile, here is the CIA World Factbook's entry for the UAE. For all its economic liberalism, it's interesting to note that the UAE is still an autocracy (albeit, arguably, one of the more enlightened ones). Mind you, one could levy similar charges against Singapore (where the ruling party has held power for decades; among other things, voting districts in Singapore are so small that it is easy for the bureaucracy to systematically penalise anyone who votes for the opposition).

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Is Sun Myung Moon, leader of the Moonies cult, sponsor of religious conservatives across the US and Congressionally-crowned "King of Peace" also providing nuclear submarines to North Korea, giving them the capability to strike California? If so, he's quite the James Bond villain.

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More allegations of abuse in US-controlled military prisons, this time in Guantánamo, have emerged, with recently released British suspects claiming that they were interrogated at gunpoint and forced to pose naked.

In the dossier the Britons say the level of mental illness among detainees is higher than admitted by the US. The Tipton Three say guards told them that a fellow British detainee, Moazzam Begg, still imprisoned in Guantánamo, had been kept in isolation and "was in a very bad way". They say that Jamil el-Banna, of London, was so traumatised that "mentally, basically, he's finished".

(Forced to pose naked? Can you see the pattern? I wonder how long until there are Guantanamo-themed pr0n sites, only with naked women playing the parts of the detainees ("", where you can vote for your favourite bikini-clad she-terrorist to be sexually tortured on camera (all major credit cards accepted)?); or perhaps an "Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS"-style exploitation film about Lynndie England? The possibilities for bad taste are limitless.)

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This sounds immensely cool: two people are writing a book for O'Reilly's Hacks series on taking advantage of the quirks of one's brain. Or, as Cory Doctorow says, a guide for overclocking your amygdala:

I'm talking about minute-by-minute stuff: This is why you scratch your face when somebody else does. This is what will grab your attention in the corner of your eye, and this is what won't. Why the status icons in the corner of your desktop should be black and white and not in colour. That's what Brain Hacks is about, letting you see how all that works, from a standing start.
There's so much I want to say right now. From what I've learned, and the way it's changed how I look at the world - I can now follow the way my attention gets attached to the internal and external world, anticipate what's going to cause subliminal behaviour, and induce it in other people (but don't tell them I've been doing that), oh and the philosophical implications too - to the process: our use of a wiki for research and organisation (the most successful usage I've seen), the pitch process, the nature of writing, writing under pressure, re-learning how to follow citation trails, balance opinions. That can all wait.

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