The Null Device

2006/5/5

The family of the French-born al-Qaeda terrorist and/or raving lunatic Zacarias Moussaoui, who recently failed to escape solitary confinement for life, are claiming that living in London turned him from a nice young man into a murderous zealot.

(via Londonist) al-qaeda london terrorism 0

2006/5/4

Japan is preparing for an epidemic of divorces as its baby-boom generation of salarymen retire and find themselves living in close quarters with the wives they hardly knew during their working lives:

"I wanted him to keep working but I've accepted now he's going to come home," says Hatae Ishizaki, whose 59-year-old architect husband is due to punch his last card in April next year. "I'm just going to spend more time out of the house. I'd divorce him, but it's too much trouble at my age."
Japan has some of the longest hours of unpaid overtime in the world. Salarymen generally spend more time in the company of male work colleagues than with their families. In their scarce hours out of the office, husbands are poor home-makers - a recent survey found that men in Japan did just four hours housework a week, far fewer than their counterparts elsewhere. Among the cruel spousal monickers for wrung-out, retired husbands with minimal life skills are nure ochiba (wet leaves) and sodai gomi (big rubbish). "It's like having another child around the house," says Mrs Ishizaki.
One of Japan's top-selling weekly magazines, Shukan Bunshun, recently peered inside hundreds of baby-boomer households and was shocked to find that many middle-aged women were practising their farewell speeches.
"To my husband: Don't suddenly get friendly with me after all these years of leaving me alone now that you have retired from your company. It's too late now!" said one 55-year-old woman who contributed to the magazine's survey.
(Let's see Momus spin this into an example of a model of human social harmony.)

culture divorce japan momus society 1

Bruce Schneier looks at the question of whom your computer's loyalties really belong to, with not only crackers and criminals competing for them but also rightsholders, software vendors and other companies, whose behind-the-scenes deals often mean that the software they sell you serves other masters:

Entertainment software: In October 2005, it emerged that Sony had distributed a rootkit with several music CDs -- the same kind of software that crackers use to own people's computers. This rootkit secretly installed itself when the music CD was played on a computer. Its purpose was to prevent people from doing things with the music that Sony didn't approve of: It was a DRM system. If the exact same piece of software had been installed secretly by a hacker, this would have been an illegal act. But Sony believed that it had legitimate reasons for wanting to own its customers' machines.
Antivirus: You might have expected your antivirus software to detect Sony's rootkit. After all, that's why you bought it. But initially, the security programs sold by Symantec and others did not detect it, because Sony had asked them not to. You might have thought that the software you bought was working for you, but you would have been wrong.
Internet services: Hotmail allows you to blacklist certain e-mail addresses, so that mail from them automatically goes into your spam trap. Have you ever tried blocking all that incessant marketing e-mail from Microsoft? You can't.
Application software: Internet Explorer users might have expected the program to incorporate easy-to-use cookie handling and pop-up blockers. After all, other browsers do, and users have found them useful in defending against Internet annoyances. But Microsoft isn't just selling software to you; it sells Internet advertising as well. It isn't in the company's best interest to offer users features that would adversely affect its business partners.
Schneier warns that the present situation could have dire consequences:
If left to grow, these external control systems will fundamentally change your relationship with your computer. They will make your computer much less useful by letting corporations limit what you can do with it. They will make your computer much less reliable because you will no longer have control of what is running on your machine, what it does, and how the various software components interact. At the extreme, they will transform your computer into a glorified boob tube.
You can fight back against this trend by only using software that respects your boundaries. Boycott companies that don't honestly serve their customers, that don't disclose their alliances, that treat users like marketing assets. Use open-source software -- software created and owned by users, with no hidden agendas, no secret alliances and no back-room marketing deals.

adware architectures of control bruce schneier drm security 0

In Britain, there is little free map data. There is an excellent map of the whole of Britain, assembled by the government's Ordnance Survey, but, in line with Thatcherite-Blairite ideology, which holds that not extracting the maximum profit is a grievious dereliction of duty, this is commercial and expensive. (In contrast, the United States Geographical Survey's maps are in the public domain, the reasoning being that, as they were assembled with public funds, they belong to the public.) A group of mapping geeks and free-culture activists under the banner of OpenStreetMap are working to reverse this by creating their own maps; they have a wiki-like system to which volunteers with GPS units can upload traces of streets they have walked down and such. This weekend, they are having a working bee of sorts, intensively mapping the Isle of Wight. More than 30 volunteers will descend on the island, walking its many paths with GPS units and uploading their traces to the wiki; of course, the more the merrier, so if you have a GPS unit and a belief that information wants to be free.

It is hoped that this project, and the OpenStreetMap project in general, will force a sea change in the ownership of geographical data in the UK, much in the way that the Sanger Institute's human-genome sequencing effort in Cambridge made it unfeasible for Celera Genomics to exercise proprietary control over the human genome.

(via Boing Boing) copyfight crown copyright geodata openstreetmap ordnance survey thatcherism-blairism uk 3