The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'internet'
Meanwhile in Australia, the right-wing opposition (and, at this point, almost inevitably the next government come September) has launched its alternative to the Labor government's National Broadband Network policy. It's an improvement on their previous policy (“rip it out, fill in the trenches and let the free market provide”), but nonetheless still falls well short. While Labor's network would bring high-speed fibre-optic connections straight to the home, giving 100 megabits per second (increasing to gigabit speeds), the Coalition's cut-rate plan would extend fibre only to boxes on the kerb, relying on a largely deteriorating copper infrastructure for the “last mile”, topping out at a theoretical 25 megabits per second (though that would be in ideal conditions; as with ADSL, distance from the node and cable condition would affect this). It would achieve this at about 2/3 of the cost of the all-fibre NBN. Or, the Pareto Principle: You're Doing It Wrong.
And while 25Mbps is an improvement on what we have now, and good enough for the sorts of things people do today (watching videos, shopping online, playing games), to say it will be good enough betrays a lack of imagination, or a deliberate narrowing of horizons that is all too familiar in Australian politics. Australia has always been the lucky country, borne at first on the sheep's back and now on Chinese demand for iron ore, which has led to a sclerotic apathy in terms of any sort of forward planning, in particular infrastructure and development. Combined with the stultifying conservatism of the Australian Right from Howard onwards, with its quasi-edenic visions of the conformistic white-picket-fenced utopia of the golden age of Menzies, the implicit message is clear: we are not Korea or Finland. We don't have a Nokia or a Samsung. We're a simple country. Our place in the world is to dig stuff up, put it on big ships and send it to China, and then to go home and relax in front of our big-screen TVs with a tinny of VB. That is all. It's a comfortable life, but we shouldn't get ideas beyond our station. All we need from the internet is to be able to shop online, pay the odd bill and download last week's episode of Jersey Shore a bit faster, and two rusty tin cans and a length of barbed wire fence is good enough for that. Well, that coupled with the sort of facile, nihilistically short-sighted anti-government rhetoric (infrastructure investment is “waste”; you can't prove it's not, so there) that the Abbott government-in-waiting has been borrowing from the US Tea Party.
The Coalition's policy has been roundly criticised by experts and mocked online as “fraudband”. However, all that means zip to the average outer-suburban swinging voters who get 100% of their information from the Murdoch press, right-wing shock jocks and/or 30-minute TV news programmes which are mostly sport, celebrity gossip and wacky human-interest stories, and who actually decide elections. So it looks like Australia, a country which coined the term “tyranny of distance” and was an early adopter of everything from telegraphy to mobile phones, will be stuck behind, paying off a 20th-century system and living much as the generation before them did, just because the bogans hate Julia Gillard.
The Zuckerberg Doctrine has its fans: in the Chinese Communist Party:
China passed rules yesterday requiring people to identify themselves when signing up for Internet and phone services, as the Communist Party tightens control over the world’s largest population of web users.
Under the law, people must give their real names when they sign up for Internet, fixed-phone-line or mobile-phone services. Providers must also require people’s names when allowing them to post information publicly, it said.Meanwhile, an Oregon woman found a note from a Chinese labour camp inmate in a package of Halloween decorations:
Oregon resident Julie Keith was shocked when she opened her $29.99 Kmart Halloween graveyard decoration kit to find a letter, folded into eights, hidden between two Styrofoam tombstones.
Coming all the way from unit 8, department 2 of the Masanjia Labor Camp in Shenyang, China, the letter written mostly in English read, "Sir: If you occasionally buy this product, please kindly resend this letter to the World Human Right Organization. Thousands people here who are under the persicution of the Chinese Communist Party Government will thank and remember you forever."
More good recent political news: Australia's Labor government has finally put a stake through the heart of its internet censorship plan. The plan, to establish a mandatory Chinese/Saudi-style national internet firewall blocking access to sites on a secret list (which would have not been limited to the worst of the worst but have included anything illegal in Australia, potentially blocking anything from nude images of small-breasted women to sites advising on suicide methods or graffiti, or, given its unanswerability, anything the powers that be or loud wowsers wanted swept under the carpet) had been adopted into the ALP's platform to appease the Christian Fundamentalist party Family First, whose votes they needed, though seemed to be supported a little too enthusiastically by then-ALP leader Kevin Rudd (himself a God-botherer cut from the same cloth as Tory Grand Inquisitor and current PM-in-waiting Tony Abbott). When Family First returned to a well-deserved obscurity, the ALP kept the national firewall as part of its official platform, though put it on the backburner, pending reviews and studies. Now, it seems, common sense has prevailed and it is finally dead.
The national firewall will be replaced by legislation requiring ISPs to block sites on an Interpol blacklist of child pornography sites. This list is organised by IP address, and would not slow down access the way the more comprehensive filtering proposed would have, and is apparently more transparently organised:
The Interpol process for identifying websites for the banned list is transparent. A site must be reviewed by authorities from two countries before it can be listed. Australian users trying to access banned sites will be redirected to a ''stop'' page.Of course, the devil is in the details; one should hope that being nominated by two national authorities is not a sufficient condition for a site to be banned. If, say, Saudi Arabia and Iran, or Malta and Vatican City, nominate a site on, say, homosexuality or abortion for inclusion in the index prohibitorum, hopefully that doesn't mean that ISPs in Australia (and the UK, and elsewhere) will block it. Or, indeed, that this doesn't expand into a general-purpose mechanism for shutting down things that threaten vested interests. Though at least that's progress.
Of course, not everyone's happy with the end of the Great Firewall of Australia: the fundies still want tough laws imposing their views and values on the rest of society, for the common spiritual good of all, of course, and have reiterated their call for a national firewall. For now, though, the public mood is not on their side.
There's a piece in the Guardian about the rise of crowdfunding, and how it shifted from a medium for art projects to a means of decentralised organisation of practical endeavours requiring money, and turned into a means for circumventing market failures:
Kickstarter itself is changing under the influence of digital culture. At first it was about making established forms of art. Film was big – documentaries about organic community vegetable gardens were not uncommon. Now that is changing. It is becoming a land of gadget makers and gamers.
This new communal instinct can do amazing things like route around the warping influence of capitalism and digital platform wars. Look at projects like Open Trip Planner. This takes a bit of unravelling but basically the benefit of good maps on smartphones became endangered by Apple's titanic battle for market supremacy with Google. Apple are attempting to strip Google products like maps from iPhones and this left users with crappy transport info – Open Trip Planner is the communal answer to a hierarchical fall out.The article mentions OpenTripPlanner, an open-source alternative to trip planning systems which seems to be doing for trip planning what OpenStreetMap did for geodata, and the Pebble watch, a Bluetooth-enabled smart watch designed without the backing of a large electronics corporation, and the fact that Kickstarter is expanding to the UK.
In other crowdfunding news, Matthew Inman, who runs The Oatmeal web comic, recently launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise US$850,000 buy Nikola Tesla's old laboratory (put on the market by AGFA and expected to be bought by property developers); the campaign met its target in under a week and has since raised over a million dollars.
One of the dividends of the melting of Arctic ice is on its way; this summer, three flotillas of icebreakers and cable-laying ships will begin laying submarine cables crossing the Arctic, from London to Tokyo. The cables, which will go through Canada's Arctic Archipelago and skirt the Russian north coast, will cost between $600m and $1.5 billion each and will reduce the latency between London and Tokyo (a link which now goes either through the Indian Ocean or the long way around, through North America) by 30%, shaving 60 milliseconds off; which translates to up to $25 million per millisecond saved.
As important as network links are in today's hyperconnected world, the fact that some three or so billion dollars (a sum which could buy a lot of other things, from providing millions of people with clean water to patching up bridges and power plants) was easily found for a 60-millisecond speed increase is mostly to do with being massively useful for high-frequency algorithmic trading. Objectively, it makes no difference whether a transaction between London and Tokyo takes 170 or 230 milliseconds to take place—though whether the transaction gets in before or after the rest of the market is the difference between profit and loss. Already, a significant part of the global financial system resembles a game of Core Wars played with real money; large amounts of wealth are conjured into being in finance houses by wartrading bots created from GPUs and FPGAs by extremely well-renumerated geeks, and many of the brightest minds of our age are eschewing the vows of poverty which go with the academic life or the modest salaries promised by pure science and medical research and instead going into creating the bots that will outcompete the current generation of bots. As such, there's all the money in the world for faster network links between global financial centres, and the Arctic link should tide the traders of London and Tokyo over until someone opens a finance house on Novaya Zemlya or in the Canadian arctic and beats both sides to the punch. After all, 299,792,458 metres per second is not just a good idea; it is about as iron-clad a law as there is.
The article suggests that, while algorithmic trading will benefit from the link, it will also be open to general traffic. Though, since the reduced latency is a competitive advantage worth countless millions, I wonder whether civilian access to the cable will be specially configured to slow packets down by a few milliseconds.
Idea of the day: the Happy Recession; the idea that the internet, through driving prices and costs down, will permanently deflate both prices and wages; the post-internet world, it seems, jams econo:
The most pernicious aspect of Internet entertainment is that it’s so easy to measure and so easy to mass-produce. So the moment something on the Internet gets fun enough to be competitive with the real-world analogue, it starts getting relentlessly improved until it’s vastly superior. World of Warcraft soaks up upwards of forty hours per week from serious fans, who pay about $15 per month for their subscriptions. Few other hobbies can consume so much time at such a low cost.
The web makes it easier to access non-traditional employees at much lower salaries. As we argued in our Demand Media analysis, the real story here is that a stay-at-home mom with a Masters in Journalism can write content that is good enough compared to a typical Madison Avenue copywriter, especially when the rate is $15 per article instead of six figures per year. This disaggregation of writing skill means that companies no longer have to hire good writers in order to write 5% good copy and 95% mediocre work; they can outsource the mediocre stuff and relegate the high-end work to a short-term freelancer.
The web offers cheap social status: In the long term, this may have a bigger effect than the web merely making digitizable products cheaper. Social status games drive a huge amount of economic activity: people strive to get into high-paying, high prestige career tracks, to win promotions and attendant raises, to live in the best neighborhoods and send their kids to the best schools. Few status games lack some kind of economic output—people who play sports well below the professional level still get some job opportunities out of it.One could probably also add a geographical factor to this: in the age of cheap, ubiquitous opportunity, access to economic and cultural opportunities is less dependant on being located in a buzzing metropolis or creative-class hive; after all, if a copywriter or app developer can work from anywhere with creativity, things like music and art scenes (or whatever replaces the post-punk rock'n'roll era construction of the "music scene" in the cultural ecosystem) are centred around blogs rather than physical venues, and one doesn't even need to move to a different place to find like-minded people, there would be less competition for living in more desirable areas, when the price of not doing so no longer includes disconnection from as many opportunities.
Mark Dery critically examines at the relentlessly upbeat politics of enthusiasm in the age of the Tumblr blog and the Like button:
At its brainiest, this sensibility expresses itself in the group blog Boing Boing, a self-described “directory of wonderful things.” Tellingly, the trope “just look at this!,” a transport of rapture at the wonderfulness of whatever it is, has become a refrain on the site, as in: ”Just look at this awesome underwear made from banana fibers. Just look at it.” Or: “Just look at this awesome steampunk bananagun. Just look at it.” Or: “Just look at this bad-ass volcano.” Or: “Just look at this illustration of an ancient carnivorous whale.” Because that’s what the curators of wunderkammern do—draw back the curtain, like Charles Willson Peale in “The Artist in His Museum,” exposing a world of “wonderful things,” natural (bad-ass volcanoes, carnivorous whales) and unnatural (steampunk bananaguns, banana-fiber underwear), calculated to make us marvel.Of course, there is a downside to this relentless boosterism: the positive becomes the norm (how many things can you "favourite"?); meanwhile, critical thought becomes delegitimised. When everybody's building shrines to their likes, any expression of negativity is an attack on someone's personal taste, making one a "hater" (a term originally from hip-hop culture which, tellingly, gained mainstream currency in the past decade). From this relentlessly upbeat point of view, critics are no more legitimate than griefers, the players in multi-player games who destroy others' achievements motivated by sadism:
At their wound-licking, hater-hatin’ worst, the politics of enthusiasm bespeak the intellectual flaccidity of a victim culture that sees even reasoned critiques as a mean-spirited assault on the believer, rather than an intellectual challenge to his beliefs. Journal writer Christopher John Farley is worth quoting again: dodging the argument by smearing the critic, the term “hater” tars “all criticism—no matter the merits—as the product of hateful minds.” No matter the merits.The culture of enthusiasm, and the culture of disenthusiasm (which Dery mentions), seems to be founded on the assumption that we are defined by the things we like and dislike. It's a form of commodity fetishism taken into the cultural sphere, though one step removed from the accumulation of material goods, rather dealing with approval and disapproval. Not surprisingly, it's often associated with youth subcultures; take, for example, punks' leather jackets; the names which appear on the back, and those omitted for obviousness or inauthenticity, signal their wearers' authenticity and legitimacy in the culture. (Hipsters take it further, into the realm of irony, where one's status is measured by how close one can surf to the void of kitsch; being into, say, Hall & Oates or M.C. Hammer, is worth more than safe choices like Joy Division and the Velvet Underground, which are so obvious a part of every civilised person's background that trumpeting one's enthusiasm for them is immediately suspect.)
However, likes and dislikes, when worn as badges of identity, can become mere totemism. Do you like, say, The Strokes or Barack Obama, because you find them interesting, or because you wish to be identified as the kind of person who does? Or, as A Softer World put it:
Cultural products (a term which encompasses everything from pop stars to public intellectuals, from comic books to politicians) can fulil two functions: they can be valued for their content or function (does this band rock? Is this book interesting?), or for their function as establishing the consumer's identity. Much like vinyl record sleeves framed on trendy apartment walls by people who don't own turntables to project an aura of cool, favourite books or movies or bands or public figures can be trotted out to buttress one's public image, without ever being fully digested. (Witness, for example, the outspokenly religious American "Conservatives" who idolise Ayn Rand, a strident atheist who expressed a Nietzschean contempt for religion.) Likes and dislike, in other words, are like flags, saluted or burned often out of habit or social obligation as much as any intrinsic value they may hold.
At the end, Dery points out that, far more interesting and telling than what we like or dislike are the things we both like and dislike, or else find fascinating; things which compel us with a mixture of fascination and repulsion, in whatever quantities, rather than neatly falling into one side or the other of the love/hate binary.
Freed from the confining binary of loving versus loathing, Facebook Like-ing versus hateration, we can imagine an index of obsessions, an inventory of intrigues that more accurately traces the chalk outline of who we truly are.
Imagine a more anarchic politics of enthusiasm, poetically embodied in a simulacrum of the self that preserves our repulsive attractions and attractive repulsions, reducing us not to our Favorites, nor even to our likes and dislikes, but to our obscure obsessions, our recurrent themes, the passing fixations that briefly grip us, then are gone—not our favorite things, but the things that Favorite us, whether we like it, or even know it, or not.
Researchers at CMU write a program that learns facts by reading the web; hilarity ensues:
NELL also judges the facts it finds, promoting some of them to the higher category of “beliefs” if they come from a single trusted source, or if they come from multiple sources that are less reliable. According to the researchers, “More than half of the beliefs were promoted based on evidence from multiple [i.e., less reliable] sources,” making NELL more of a rumor mill than a trusted source. And once NELL promotes a fact to a belief, it stays a belief: “In our current implementation, once a candidate fact is promoted as a belief, it is never demoted,” a process that sounds more like religion than science.
Sometimes NELL makes mistakes: the computer incorrectly labeled “right posterior” as a body part. NELL proved smart enough to call ketchup a condiment, not a vegetable, a mislabeling that we owe to the “great communicator,” Ronald Regan. But its human handlers had to tell NELL that Klingon is not an ethnic group, despite the fact that many earthlings think it is. Alex Trebek would be happy to know that, unlike Sean Connery, NELL has no trouble classifying therapists as a “profession,” but the computer trips up on the rapists, which it thinks could possibly be “awardtrophytournament” (confidence level, 50%).
Told by its programmers that Risk is a board game, NELL predicts with 91.4% confidence that security risk is also a board game. NELL knows that a number is a character, but then incorrectly classifies the plural, numbers, as a character trait (93.8% confidence). The computer is also 99.9% confident that business is an academic field, which may be reassuring to those in the b-school if not to those small business owners worrying about the continuation of the Bush tax cuts.
According to a US government report, for 18 minutes in April, 15% of global internet traffic was rerouted through a state-owned ISP in China. The report strongly hints that this may have been no accident, but a deliberate attempt by the Chinese government to capture and analyse internet traffic between entities in the US or elsewhere.
Dmitri Alperovitch, a threat research analyst at internet security firm McAfee, said the capture "is one of the biggest – if not the biggest hijacks – we have ever seen". "No one except China Telecom operators" know what happened to the traffic during those 18 minutes, Alperovitch added. "The possibilities are numerous and troubling, but definitive answers are unknown."The Chinese government has denied the allegations. Of course, it could be just a router malfunction or operator error. (Sometimes sinister-looking things turn out to be just randomness: princesses die in stupid car crashes, presidents' heads spontaneously explode in motorcades, that sort of thing. )
Meanwhile, further analysis of the Stuxnet malware (which, it was previously speculated, was designed to attack Iran's nuclear enrichment programme, possibly by the Israeli Mossad) have shown that its payload was designed to subtly degrade the quality of enriched uranium coming from centrifuges:
According to Symantec, Stuxnet targets specific frequency-converter drives — power supplies used to control the speed of a device, such as a motor. The malware intercepts commands sent to the drives from the Siemens SCADA software, and replaces them with malicious commands to control the speed of a device, varying it wildly, but intermittently.
The malware, however, doesn’t sabotage just any frequency converter. It inventories a plant’s network and only springs to life if the plant has at least 33 frequency converter drives made by Fararo Paya in Teheran, Iran, or by the Finland-based Vacon.
Even more specifically, Stuxnet targets only frequency drives from these two companies that are running at high speeds — between 807 Hz and 1210 Hz. Such high speeds are used only for select applications. Symantec is careful not to say definitively that Stuxnet was targeting a nuclear facility, but notes that “frequency converter drives that output over 600 Hz are regulated for export in the United States by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission as they can be used for uranium enrichment.”
The Libyan government's domain registry has seized a .ly domain, vb.ly, on the grounds of the content of the site, an adult-oriented link-shortener, not being compliant with Libyan Islamic/Sharia law. The moral of this story: don't go for the domains in countries with sketchy records of freedom of speech and/or rule of law, no matter how cool their suffix looks.
At time of writing, popular link shortener bit.ly has not posted Sharia-compliance policies. Given that Libya's pulling of vb.ly is virtually guaranteed to trigger a flood of provocative bit.ly links, from high-interest-rate bank accounts to whisky distilleries, pages on the awesomeness of bacon, pictures of women with uncovered faces and drawings of random entities said to be named Muhammad, things are going to get interesting.
Meanwhile, the world's porn enthusiasts are waiting in the hope that North Korea's next God-Emperor will see fit to start selling .nk domains, thus allowing http://wa.nk/, http://spa.nk/ and/or http://bo.nk/ to fill the gap left by vb.ly.
Internet memes (once described, perhaps unkindly, as "like in-jokes for people who don't have friends") aren't purely an American or Anglosphere phenomenon. Cracked has a list of seven quite peculiar internet memes from foreign countries.
The Russians have two entries: PhotoExtreme is an offshoot of live-action role-playing games, as one would expect in the sort of hardcore place that Russia is fabled to be. In this meme, one person comes up with a bizarre scenario, and others act it out, take photos and post them online. The scenarios are acted out in public, without anybody being informed in advance, so bystanders are likely to be confronted with surreal, often violent (ontologically, if not literally) spectacles.
The other Russian meme is a more innocuous one, not unlike LOLCats, which originated from a rather naïve American drawing of a bear, and involves photoshopping said drawing into images. In Sweden, meanwhile, they do something similar with an image of a guy with a horse's head; this meme is named "Snel Hest" ("Nice Horse") and often involves horse-related puns. Meanwhile, the French go in for sarcastically 'shopping their self-aggrandising president Sarkozy into various historical scenes (it seems to be akin to the "Al Gore invented the Internet" meme of the 1990s) and in Australia, a video of a racist bogan chick went viral (the great Australian public doesn't really go for highly conceptual, it seems). The Kenyans, meanwhile, have a supercool tough-guy hero named Makmende, whose name comes from a mangling of Clint Eastwood's famous line "make my day".
The latest casualty of the rise of the internet and digital media: the print edition of the (full) Oxford English Dictionary; it comes in 20 volumes, weighs a third of a tonne, costs US$1,165 and, unsurprisingly, isn't selling very well, given that OED provides all its content in a subscription-based web service. As of next year, there may not be a paper edition at all.
John Perry Barlow, co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, claims that the internet has broken the US political system, with the deluge of information rendering the country "ungovernably information-rich":
Barlow also said that President Barack Obama's election, driven largely by small donations, has fundamentally changed American politics. He said a similar bottom-up structure is needed for governing as well. "It's not the second coming, everything won't get better overnight, but that made it possible to see a future where it wasn’t simply a matter of money to define who won these things," Barlow said. "The government could finally start belonging to people eventually."That's one perspective; another one is that the true stakeholders are not the plebeians who vote but the corporations who buy government bonds, and that, to keep an economy stable, the levers of power have to be moved well out of reach of the ignorant rabble and those who would pander to them; i.e., that governments' hands have to be tied by international treaties on anything that might affect the bottom line, reserving democracy for largely symbolic issues. Of course, with the people empowered from the edges by new tools, and the stakeholders pushing to seize more power, things could end up getting ugly.
The Mayor of London is now talking about wiring the entire city, including the Tube, for wireless internet. Of course, it's unlikely to be free, as once mentioned; for one, it'll cost a fair bit, and also, with the Digital Economy Act, it's likely that proof of identity (or at least a credit card) will be required for copyright-enforcement purposes.
"I used to run a small web design service, the domain for which I allowed to expire after years of non-use. A few weeks ago, I noticed that my old site was back online at the old domain. The site-cloners are now using my old email addresses to gain access to old third-party web services accounts (invoicing tools, etc.) and are fraudulently billing my clients for years of services. I've contacted the Russian site host, PayPal, and the invoicing service. What more can I do? Can I fight back?"
Life imitates New Waver lyrics yet again: A psychological study at Leeds University has found a connection between depression and heavy internet use:
The authors found that a small number of users had developed a compulsive internet habit, replacing real life social interaction with online chat rooms and social networking sites.
They classed 18 respondents - 1.2% of the total - as "internet addicts". This group spent proportionately more time on sex, gambling and online community websites... The internet addicts were significantly more depressed than the non-addicted group, with a depression score five times higher.Of course, the whole concept of "internet addiction" is a dubious one, and often tinged with tabloid-style moral panic, so there's a danger that the advocates of the "internet addiction" industry will wave this around as proof, ignoring the fact that the addictive behaviours there are more usefully described as gambling and/or pornography addiction.
The report does not put forward any causal links between heavy internet use and depression. Do specific patterns of internet use weaken social contacts, contributing to depression, or do depressed people use the internet to self-medicate?
Also, the inclusion of online community websites along with sex and gambling websites seems somewhat dubious; while the latter are masturbatory replacements for natural stimuli, especially those one leading an impoverished life may lack, can one really imply that social community sites substitute for and weaken social ties rather than facilitating them? I recall a study from a few years ago which showed that users of social web sites actually have stronger social connections, and improved wellbeing as a result of those. Though it is always possible that various characteristics of particular social websites (which may be influenced by their design and/or emergent from organic patterns of use) influence their ability to facilitate psychologically useful social ties.
Iceland is about to make its entry into the global data centre market, taking advantage of its position in the middle of the Atlantic, cold climate (hence less need for cooling) and abundant geothermal energy; the new facility, named KEF001, is currently under construction at the former NATO Command Centre in Keflavík; one of the major investors is the Wellcome Trust, the nonprofit biotech charity who also funded the Human Genome Project.
In an attempt to fight pornography and disharmony on the internet, the Chinese government has banned individuals from registering personal domain names, and announced that those with personal websites might lose them. From now on, only licensed businesses will be able to own domain names in China.
Meanwhile, the Italian government is considering restricting criticism on the internet, after a violent assault on the prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, which his party have argued was caused by "a climate of hate generated by virulent opposition criticism". Italy already requires anybody using internet access facilities to show and register identity documents, under the guise of fighting terrorism and paedophilia.
Facebook are adding a XMPP gateway to their instant messaging service, which has, until now, been tied to their web site, running in the browser frame. (Sure, there have been unsupported hacks, like the Adium/Pidgin driver, which pretended to be a web browser, but they were unsupported and less than ideal; there was, for example, no way to shut down IM in the browser whilst staying online in your chat client.) Anyway, this should be a pretty big boost for XMPP (also known as Jabber), an open instant messaging protocol also used by Google Talk and the chat services of various other sites (such as LiveJournal).
I wonder whether Facebook will use XMPP to provide additional functionality, such as allowing status updates by instant message, or sending notifications to users' messaging clients.
Economically, things are pretty grim in Iceland. The country's beset by crippling debts, prices are rising and foreign currency is being rationed; public opinion has turned against the free-wheeling capitalists who caused the crisis, and support for joining the EU is dropping as EU members (particularly Britain and the Netherlands) hold Iceland's feet to the fire over bank debts.
However, there are plans to utilise Iceland's geographical advantages to make the country the world's server farm. It makes sense; server facilities use increasingly vast amounts of electricity, both for powering servers and cooling them. Iceland, however, has a cold climate (providing for natural cooling), and more electricity than it knows what to do with (thanks to geothermal energy), all generated with negligible carbon emissions, and is conveniently located in the middle of the North Atlantic, within easy reach of both North America and Europe.
Iceland has been busying itself laying fibre optic cables to connect the country with North America and Europe. The cables coming in provide a capacity of more than five terabits/sec - all with server farms in mind.
Travelling down this pipe, data sited in Iceland is just 17 milliseconds from London.
Telstra, Australia's telecommunications backbone quasi-monopolist, is going to be broken up, into separate wholesale and retail arms at least. Which sounds like good news for Australian internet users.
Search giant Google confirmed to the BBC that when the news first broke it feared it was under attack.
Before the company's servers crashed, TweetVolume noted that "Michael Jackson" appeared in more than 66,500 Twitter updates.And Farrah Fawcett (whom one really has to feel sorry for; what a way to go) wasn't the only one eclipsed by the "King of Pop" going supernova; the entire Iranian protest movement was as well.
That put news of Jackson's death at least on par with the Iran protests, as Twitter posts about Iran topped 100,000 per hour on June 16 and eventually climbed to 220,000 per hour.(It's probably, in the Blairite parlance, a good day to bury bad news; I wonder whether the Iranian government has taken advantage of this to hastily machine-gun all those pesky protesters into freshly dug trenches while the world's mourning a pop star.)
Michael Jackson's death will almost certainly go down in history as one of those iconic events that everyone remembers where they were when they heard of it, like the Kennedy assassination or the passing of his erstwhile father-in-law some three decades earlier. Only, this time, it happened in a highly networked world, so the recollections will surely reflect this. I first heard of it when I saw someone log into an instant messaging service with "RIP Michael Jackson" as their status. Though one may well have found out about it by reading Wikipedia's revisions page:
(cur) (prev) 22:49, 25 June 2009 TexasAndroid (talk | contribs) m (119,637 bytes) (Removed category Living people (using HotCat))Which is somewhat less ignominious than Wikipedia's summary judgment of non-notability on Steven Wells. (Wikipedia appears to be locked in a deletionist spiral of radicalism these days, as editors prove their hard-headedness and ideological purity by being increasingly ruthless with what is deemed "notable".)
And the Register' article on the Michael Jackson Twitter meltdown ends with some speculation about what's likely to happen in the days and weeks following his death:
We can expect floods of tributes, detailing how Jackson changed the face of pop music (a reasonable claim) was the biggest record seller in history (probably) and invented the moonwalk (absolutely not).
This will be quickly followed by floods of revelations about the singer's murky private life, now that libel restrictions no longer reply - at least in the UK.
But first of all, we can expect a flood of malware spam, likely promising post-mortem pictures of the star's body.The spam, it seems, didn't take long.
Google Earth scores another scalp; thanks to its satellite imagery, a group of amateurs has been able to build up a comprehensive picture of North Korea, thwarting the hermit kingdom's hermetic borders. The picture is, as one might expect, not a pretty one:
Among the most notable findings is the site of mass graves created in the 1990s following a famine that the UN estimates killed about 2 million people. "Graves cover entire mountains," Melvin said.
The palaces housing dictator Kim Jong Il and his inner circle, clearly shown on the maps, contain Olympic-size swimming pools with giant waterslides and golf courses.The data is available as a Google Earth layer, peppered with detailed landmarks, from the project's web site. While Google Earth was crucial to it, other information sources, from sketches by defectors and escapees to the North Korean state press's own carefully circumscribed reports of the
The authors of the data have notified North Korean embassies about it but, for some reason, received no response.
Meanwhile, OpenStreetMap has actual maps of North Korea (sometimes even with labels); here, for example, is central Pyongyang.
The Australian government has announced the formation of a company to build a national broadband network, after being unsatisfied with private bids to build it.
The proposal goes much further than the Government had previously planned as fibre-optic cables will now run all the way from telephone exchanges to homes and businesses. It had previously planned to lay cables only from exchanges to cabinets at the end of street corners. In a major blow to Telstra, Mr Rudd said it was time ''to bite the bullet'' after years of neglect of the telecommunications sector.
''Years of failed policy have left Australia as a broadband backwater," he said.The network will include fibre-optic connections to the premises with up to 100 megabits per second, and presumably will include mandatory content filtering at the infrastructure level. Construction will start in Tasmania around the middle of the year.
Cory Doctorow, freelance writer and novelist, has written a short article on how to write productively in the age of ubiquitous distraction. The advice he gives is rather novel; he dismisses the usual advice about switching off one's internet connection, and is also scornful of the idea of ceremony, or of setting the right mood. (And understandably so; acknowledging the idea of there being a right mood or atmosphere for evoking one's inner muse could lead to finding excuses, consciously or subconsciously, for not actually doing anything.)
The single worst piece of writing advice I ever got was to stay away from the Internet because it would only waste my time and wouldn't help my writing. This advice was wrong creatively, professionally, artistically, and personally, but I know where the writer who doled it out was coming from. Every now and again, when I see a new website, game, or service, I sense the tug of an attention black hole: a time-sink that is just waiting to fill my every discretionary moment with distraction. As a co-parenting new father who writes at least a book per year, half-a-dozen columns a month, ten or more blog posts a day, plus assorted novellas and stories and speeches, I know just how short time can be and how dangerous distraction is.
Short, regular work schedule. When I'm working on a story or novel, I set a modest daily goal — usually a page or two — and then I meet it every day, doing nothing else while I'm working on it. It's not plausible or desirable to try to get the world to go away for hours at a time, but it's entirely possible to make it all shut up for 20 minutes. Writing a page every day gets me more than a novel per year — do the math — and there's always 20 minutes to be found in a day, no matter what else is going on. Twenty minutes is a short enough interval that it can be claimed from a sleep or meal-break (though this shouldn't become a habit). The secret is to do it every day, weekends included, to keep the momentum going, and to allow your thoughts to wander to your next day's page between sessions. Try to find one or two vivid sensory details to work into the next page, or a bon mot, so that you've already got some material when you sit down at the keyboard.
Leave yourself a rough edge. When you hit your daily word-goal, stop. Stop even if you're in the middle of a sentence. Especially if you're in the middle of a sentence. That way, when you sit down at the keyboard the next day, your first five or ten words are already ordained, so that you get a little push before you begin your work. Knitters leave a bit of yarn sticking out of the day's knitting so they know where to pick up the next day — they call it the "hint." Potters leave a rough edge on the wet clay before they wrap it in plastic for the night — it's hard to build on a smooth edge.
Realtime communications tools are deadly. The biggest impediment to concentration is your computer's ecosystem of interruption technologies: IM, email alerts, RSS alerts, Skype rings, etc. Anything that requires you to wait for a response, even subconsciously, occupies your attention. Anything that leaps up on your screen to announce something new, occupies your attention. The more you can train your friends and family to use email, message boards, and similar technologies that allow you to save up your conversation for planned sessions instead of demanding your attention right now helps you carve out your 20 minutes. By all means, schedule a chat — voice, text, or video — when it's needed, but leaving your IM running is like sitting down to work after hanging a giant "DISTRACT ME" sign over your desk, one that shines brightly enough to be seen by the entire world.
(via Where do you think?)
Several of the UK's biggest ISPs are blocking access to a Wikipedia page about a heavy metal album. The page in question, on Virgin Killer, an album by German band Scorpions (best known for their fall-of-the-Berlin-wall anthem Winds of Change), includes an image of the cover artwork, which includes a photograph of a naked prepubescent girl; presumably this sort of thing was less unacceptable back when major label RCA signed off on it.
The measures applied redirect traffic for a significant portion of the UK's Internet population through six servers which can log and filter the content that is available to the end user. A serious side-effect of this is the inability of administrators on Wikimedia sites to block vandals and other troublemakers without potentially impacting hundreds of thousands of innocent contributors who are working on the sites in good faith.The ISPs in question include O2, Demon, Sky and Virgin Media. There is no word on whether the ISPs will block other instances of this artwork, such as those appearing on Amazon, or indeed images of other cover artwork with child nudity (a certain Nirvana album comes to mind).
This week has seen not one but two demonstrations of the power of internet-enabled bottom-up organisation. Firstly, Barack Obama's campaign topped off its outflanked of rivals (both Democratic and Republican) by becoming the first post-broadcast-age president, and now Rick Astley has won MTV's Best Act Ever award, largely because of
his timeless songwriting the lulz factor.
The Times reports that paedophiles and terrorists are joining forces online into a unified axis of unstoppable evil.
Secret coded messages are being embedded into child pornographic images, and paedophile websites are being exploited as a secure way of passing information between terrorists.
It is not clear whether the terrorists were more interested in the material for personal gratification or were drawn to child porn networks as a secure means of sending messages. In one case fewer than a dozen images were found; in another, 40,000.And another piece, looking for a rationale for the paedoterrorist nexus:
Some paedophiles have become adept at encrypting information and burying it so deeply in the internet that no outsider can easily find it. Paedophiles then meet in cyberspace and swap notes on how to reach the images. None is likely to rush to police saying they suspect that they have spotted a terrorist loitering on their child porn website.
Another area investigators will want to explore is the similarity between the personalities of paedophiles and terrorists. “If they are going out, a lot of time is spent by going to the mosque or going off to internet cafés,” the source said.Of course, there is no way that the timing of these explosive and terrifying revelations could have anything to do with the government's plans for an "Orwellian" database of all phone calls, emails and internet communications in Britain facing opposition.
Clay Shirky, author of Here Comes Everybody, posits an interesting theory: that entertainment television, an arguably stupefying medium, arose in the 20th century as a temporary coping mechanism for dealing with a surplus of free time and cognitive capacity, a way for people to harmlessly manage free time they had no traditional uses for. A parallel he quotes was the explosion in consumption of gin (in those days a disreputable, highly intoxicating drink) during the mass migration from the countryside to the cities in Britain:
The transformation from rural to urban life was so sudden, and so wrenching, that the only thing society could do to manage was to drink itself into a stupor for a generation. The stories from that era are amazing-- there were gin pushcarts working their way through the streets of London.
And it wasn't until society woke up from that collective bender that we actually started to get the institutional structures that we associate with the industrial revolution today. Things like public libraries and museums, increasingly broad education for children, elected leaders--a lot of things we like--didn't happen until having all of those people together stopped seeming like a crisis and started seeming like an asset.Television, Shirky argues, fulfils the same role. During the 20th century, a majority of the population found itself with something they didn't have before: free time. Since there was no use for this, it was more of a crisis than an opportunity, and once again, society turned to an intoxicant as a means of control:
If I had to pick the critical technology for the 20th century, the bit of social lubricant without which the wheels would've come off the whole enterprise, I'd say it was the sitcom. Starting with the Second World War a whole series of things happened--rising GDP per capita, rising educational attainment, rising life expectancy and, critically, a rising number of people who were working five-day work weeks. For the first time, society forced onto an enormous number of its citizens the requirement to manage something they had never had to manage before--free time.
And what did we do with that free time? Well, mostly we spent it watching TV.
We did that for decades. We watched I Love Lucy. We watched Gilligan's Island. We watch Malcolm in the Middle. We watch Desperate Housewives. Desperate Housewives essentially functioned as a kind of cognitive heat sink, dissipating thinking that might otherwise have built up and caused society to overheat.Now, Shirky claims, society is figuring out ways to use surplus cognitive capacity more productively than by watching sitcoms. With the internet, people are starting to turn the television off and use their time, if not more productively, more interactively. This can take the form of amateur collective efforts such as Wikipedia or of pasting captions onto photographs of cats or playing multiplayer games. (Granted, in this early stage, even contributions to Wikipedia often are about TV shows, but this will probably pass):
And television watching? Two hundred billion hours, in the U.S. alone, every year. Put another way, now that we have a unit, that's 2,000 Wikipedia projects a year spent watching television. Or put still another way, in the U.S., we spend 100 million hours every weekend, just watching the ads. This is a pretty big surplus. People asking, "Where do they find the time?" when they're looking at things like Wikipedia don't understand how tiny that entire project is, as a carve-out of this asset that's finally being dragged into what Tim calls an architecture of participation.This is not a passing phase, Shirky asserts, but a profound social shift; he cites as an example an anecdote illustrating that young children today are already in a post-television mindset, in which a one-directional consumeristic medium is seen as broken, rather than just as "the way things are and have always been":
I was having dinner with a group of friends about a month ago, and one of them was talking about sitting with his four-year-old daughter watching a DVD. And in the middle of the movie, apropos nothing, she jumps up off the couch and runs around behind the screen. That seems like a cute moment. Maybe she's going back there to see if Dora is really back there or whatever. But that wasn't what she was doing. She started rooting around in the cables. And her dad said, "What you doing?" And she stuck her head out from behind the screen and said, "Looking for the mouse."Will, in a generation or two, our descendents look back on the entire 20th century as an age of stupidity and conformism, sort of like the mythical Leave-it-to-Beaver 1950s writ large? (Assuming, of course, they're not too busy avoiding starvation or fighting over the Earth's remaining oil supplies or something.)
(via Boing Boing)
Apparently 2% of internet traffic now consists of denial-of-service attacks, mostly launched by botnets of hijacked Windows PCs operated remotely by organised crime. By comparison, email comprises 1 to 1.5% of internet traffic (though a majority of that is reportedly spam).
A gay Iranian teenager who fled to Britain after his boyfriend was hanged for sodomy is facing deportation to Iran, and almost certain death. Britain's Home Office has already denied Mehdi Kazemi, 19, asylum, and now the Netherlands is extraditing him to Britain:
"There is no doubt that Mehdi will be arrested and probably executed if he is sent back there," said his 51-year-old uncle, a salesman from Hampshire. "The police have issued a warrant for his arrest. He will be in terrible danger if he goes back."
Mr Kazemi's father has also told him that if the state doesn't kill him, he will. "His father is very angry but his mother still loves him. She is extremely worried for him but she is in a very difficult position. In Iran, mothers don't stop loving their children because they are gay."
A Home Office spokeswoman confirmed Mr Kazemi had exhausted all his domestic avenues of appeal and could expect to be detained pending his deportation. But she added: "Any further representations will be considered on their merits taking into account all the circumstances."Meanwhile, in Lancashire, a court has heard that a gang of teenagers beat a 20-year-old woman to death because she was dressed as a Goth. The woman's boyfriend was severely bashed and left with brain damage. It is not clear what the assailants' dispute with the victims' subcultural orientation was, or indeed what their own views were, though it'd probably be a safe bet that they were of the hoody-wearing persuasion.
And the ultra-conservative former prime minister of Poland, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, has spoken out against allowing internet voting because the internet is for pornography:
"I am not an enthusiast of a young person sitting in front of a computer, watching video clips and pornography while sipping a bottle of beer and voting when he feels like it," he was quoted as saying on his party's revamped Web site.
He added that Internet users are "the easiest group to manipulate, to suggest who to vote for."He's right, if one defines being manipulated as being persuaded to put aside cherished prejudices and entertain new, potentially controversial, ideas.
A piece looking at the history of five generic domain names—music.com, eat.com, car.com, meat.com and milk.com—from their origins in the quirky innocence of the pre-commercialised 1990s to their present status:
meat.com: In 1996, meat.com was a classic bit of golden age Internet whimsy called L'Industrie De Meat: an oddish logo on standard-issue mid-90s textured background, with an anti-Communications Decency Act jeremiad, links to an "Internet hall of shame" (optimized for Netscape 2.0), and information about the "Transnational Church of Life on Mars." There was also a link to the site's creator's software offering: Color Manipulation Device, which helped HTML newbies choose the colors for their Web pages. Later iterations of the site foregrounded the software development angle, offering f.search, a metasearch program that would help you get the most of the pre-Google search offerings out there.
By early 2000, though, the proprietor of L'Industrie had sold the site (hopefully at full height-of-boom prices) to a company looking to sell and promote, well meat. Promising a directory of local meat suppliers and "delicious, mouth-watering entrees," it appears to have never really gotten off the ground, and by 2004 was in the hands of a domain registrar and offered for sale. Today, the site has reached the ignominious nadir for generic Websites: it's little more than a front-end for pages of text ads, with not very well thought out photo placement
milk.com: And sometimes, they just stay the same. Milk.com was snapped up in the unheard-of ancient year of 1994 by Internet denizen Dan Bornstein, and it's remained a classic homepage in the '90s sense -- sparse background, unformatted text, easy-to-find links -- ever since.
The internet, with its detachment between online and offline actions and its lack of a private register, has spawned the phenomenon of griefers, or highly organised subcultures of people (mostly young men) who delight in ruining other people's online fun:
Consider the case of the Avatar class Titan, flown by the Band of Brothers Guild in the massively multiplayer deep-space EVE Online. The vessel was far bigger and far deadlier than any other in the game. Kilometers in length and well over a million metric tons unloaded, it had never once been destroyed in combat. Only a handful of player alliances had ever acquired a Titan, and this one, in particular, had cost the players who bankrolled it in-game resources worth more than $10,000.
So, naturally, Commander Sesfan Qu'lah, chief executive of the GoonFleet Corporation and leader of the greater GoonSwarm Alliance — better known outside EVE as Isaiah Houston, senior and medieval-history major at Penn State University — led a Something Awful invasion force to attack and destroy it.
"The ability to inflict that huge amount of actual, real-life damage on someone is amazingly satisfying" says Houston. "The way that you win in EVE is you basically make life so miserable for someone else that they actually quit the game and don't come back."
To see the philosophy in action, skim the pages of Something Awful or Encyclopedia Dramatica, where it seems every pocket of the Web harbors objects of ridicule. Vampire goths with MySpace pages, white supremacist bloggers, self-diagnosed Asperger's sufferers coming out to share their struggles with the online world — all these and many others have been found guilty of taking themselves seriously and condemned to crude but hilarious derision.Griefers defend their behaviour by claiming that they're merely giving those who take the internet far too seriously a reality check. The implied subtext is that anything that happens online is just a game and doesn't count. Though, given how the internet has become a mainstream part of many people's lives (witness, for example, the rise in social networking websites), this assertion makes about as much sense as Tom Hodgkinson's call to kill your Facebook account, throw away your email address and instead socialise in the pub with people near you. There's not a great leap from asserting that anything that happens online doesn't really count and absurdly ludditic claims like "if you don't know what someone smells like, they're a stranger".
On the other hand, there is no such thing as the right to be respected, or even to not be ridiculed. If one posts a web page detailing one's peculiar political views, conspiracy theories and/or sexual fetishes online, one can expect to be laughed at and even snidely remarked about. Though there is a distinction between demolishing someone's homepage in a blog or discussion forum and actively gathering a posse and going out to hound them off the net.
Griefing happens in the real world, though it's usually called other things, such as bullying. The difference is that the internet has democratised bullying. In the real world, in more conformistic societies, bullies can typically only be those either of or contending for alpha social status, enforcing an exaggerated version of majority values by picking on those perceived to not conform to them (witness the use of the word "gay", sometimes semi-euphemised as "ghey", as a general-purpose term of derision), and in more liberal or pluralistic environments, even that is frowned upon. Online, anyone can find a group of like-minded misfits, make up a cool-sounding name, set up a virtual clubhouse and start picking on mutually agreed targets, with little fear of social consequences.
The Australian government announced mandatory internet filters. Under the scheme, all ISPs will have to provide a "clean" feed free of pornography, which will be the default. It will be possible to opt out of this, which will either involve requesting an unfiltered (or less filtered) feed from the ISP or, after getting one's age verified, getting an account on a government-run "adult content proxy". What it will involve is Australian internet users having the choice of having access to adult content blocked or signing a "perverts' register". Then again, the government has promised that the system will not affect download speeds (which are already lagging behind the rest of the world), so perhaps the whole thing will be quietly placed in the too-hard basket after Family First (whose votes are needed in the Senate) are satisfied that Rudd & Co. are fellow wowsers.
In the beginning, the internet was a place where one could communicate intelligently with similarly erudite people. Then, Eternal September hit and we were lost in the noise. The advent of user-driven web content has compounded the matter yet further, straining our tolerance to the breaking point.
It's time to fight back.When completed, StupidFilter will be available in a variety of forms, including web browser and content management system plug-ins. So far, the project just has a corpus of text samples, rated by "stupidity", and mostly taken from YouTube comments, from which you can see random selections here.
Of course, such a system is going to work only if you define "stupidity" in purely stylistic terms (such as using words like 'lol' and 'omfg!!1!!eleventyone'), ignoring semantics altogether. In which case it becomes a way of keeping the rabble who don't punctuate properly out of your blog comments. Perhaps then someone will develop an extra-prescriptivistic filter which blocks comments containing split infinitives or inappropriate semicolons, for those wishing to move up to a higher class of gated community.
(via Boing Boing)
The Graun has a piece on Don Tapscott's recently released book Wikinomics, and the theory that computer-aided networking may soon make large corporations redundant:
Ronald Coase had noticed something odd about capitalism. The received wisdom, among western economists, was that individuals should compete in a free market: planned economies, such as Stalin's, were doomed. But in that case, why did huge companies exist, with centralised operations and planning? The Ford Motor Company was hailed as a paragon of American business, but wasn't the Soviet Union just an attempt to run a country like a big company? If capitalist theory was correct, why didn't Americans, or British people, just do business with each other as individual buyers and sellers in the open market, instead of organising themselves into firms?
The answer - which won Coase a Nobel prize - is that making things requires collaboration, and finding and linking up all the people who need to collaborate costs money. Companies emerge when it becomes cheaper to gather people, tools and material under one roof, rather than to go out looking for the best deal every time you need a few hours' labour, or a part for a car. But the internet, Tapscott argues, is radically lowering the cost of collaborating. Companies - certainly big companies - are losing their raison d'etre. Individuals, and tiny companies, can collaborate without corporate behemoths to organise them. Considering how many of us spend our weekdays working for big companies, and then spend our weekends giving our money to them, this is a far-reaching thought.Tapscott cites a number of examples, from a struggling gold-mining concern which, facing bankruptcy, opened up its geological survey data and, with the help of experts across the web, made a recovery, to Chinese motorcycle manufacturing, which rather than being dominated by large companies as in Japan or America, consists of networks of small suppliers and assemblers who meet in tea shops to do deals. (Which sounds weird, but it is exactly how a big chunk of the PC industry has been operating for a while; non-brand-name PCs, assembled from separately-bought parts by end users or small businesses.) And, of course, the user-generated content phenomenon.
If anything, it is tempting to suggest that Tapscott is too kind to large companies. (His multimillion-dollar research was, after all, funded by a consortium of them.) Wikinomics is a book for existing corporations who want to learn how to survive: he suggests, for example, turning consumers into "prosumers", with an active role in product design, as with Lego Mindstorms, a range of construction toys with robotic bricks, aimed at adults. And he's scathing about record labels and others who don't see that the internet is a platform on which they can build new, profitable products, rather than something to be fought with lawsuits. But in the very long term, there's no particular reason why large corporations should survive at all. If Ronald Coase's 1937 insight remains valid, we could yet see the day when big companies such as Google begin to look rather prehistoric -because they are still, after all, big companies.
There are a few interesting articles about cybercrime and the seamy side of the net at CIO.com: a fictionalised "CIO to the Mob" explains how online crime can pay, how online criminals use anti-forensics technology to be nigh-impossible to catch, and how the online porn and gambling industries are, as always, pushing the envelope in technological innovation and practice:
Red light sites probably aren't places CIOs normally would look to find innovative IT. But the sex and gambling industries have always been at the forefront of technological innovation. During World War II, the illegal telephone network that bookies developed was more reliable than the one the War Department used, says Harold Layer, professor emeritus at San Francisco State University. And the pornography industry has helped select technology winners and losers for ages. In the 1980s, for example, demand for adult material gave VCR makers the economies of scale they needed to make their devices affordable, says Jonathan Coopersmith, a professor of technology history at Texas A&M University.
With every program available at any moment, how will users find programs? Piper believes that search will be the killer app of IPTV. To that end, New Frontier is obsessive about metadata, watching every frame of every video it digitizes and recording as many attributes as it can. Customers can use these metadata tags to refine their searches until they find precisely what they're looking for. (For example, if you have a thing for blondes on the beach, a search on New Frontier's adult website Ten.com for "clothing-accessories-sunglasses," combined with "setting-outdoors-beach," and "physical-hair-blonde," returns two 15-minute clips, the fourth scene from Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Bimbos 2 and the first scene from Pick Up Lines 82.)
An article in New York Magazine argues that a confluence of recent technological phenomena (the rise of the internet, social software, the decline of privacy) has produced the greatest generation gap since the dawn of Rock and Roll. Whereas subsequent "gaps" (punk rock kids rebelling against their Buddy Holly-listening parents, mall-goths and gangsta-rap kids rebelling against their new-waver parents, and such) were merely the new generation individuating itself by adopting a different dress code and slang, this one is a much more substantial rift, as kids who have grown up with the internet think differently, and their parents (much like the bemused parents of the young rockers of the early 1950s) don't quite know what to make of it all:
It's been a long time since there was a true generation gap, perhaps 50 years--you have to go back to the early years of rock and roll, when old people still talked about "jungle rhythms." Everything associated with that music and its greasy, shaggy culture felt baffling and divisive, from the crude slang to the dirty thoughts it was rumored to trigger in little girls. That musical divide has all but disappeared. But in the past ten years, a new set of values has sneaked in to take its place, erecting another barrier between young and old. And as it did in the fifties, the older generation has responded with a disgusted, dismissive squawk. It goes something like this:
"Kids today. They have no sense of shame. They have no sense of privacy. They are show-offs, fame whores, pornographic little loons who post their diaries, their phone numbers, their stupid poetry--for God's sake, their dirty photos!--online. They have virtual friends instead of real ones. They talk in illiterate instant messages. They are interested only in attention--and yet they have zero attention span, flitting like hummingbirds from one virtual stage to another.Those on the younger side of the generation gap differ from their elders in several ways. They consider themselves to have an audience, and where older people have discarded the ephemera of their adolescence, the kids are archiving it, keeping a bridge to the past. Most tellingly, as the article puts it, their skin is thicker than yours. Where older people might consider concealing their private lives (in the name of privacy, security or just in case), the kids recognise that privacy is futile, and are more likely to reveal all.
And after all, there is another way to look at this shift. Younger people, one could point out, are the only ones for whom it seems to have sunk in that the idea of a truly private life is already an illusion. Every street in New York has a surveillance camera. Each time you swipe your debit card at Duane Reade or use your MetroCard, that transaction is tracked. Your employer owns your e-mails. The NSA owns your phone calls. Your life is being lived in public whether you choose to acknowledge it or not, and if being seen is inevitable, one might as well embrace it and make the best of it:This attitude manifests itself in various ways:
From their perspective, it's the extreme caution of the earlier generation that's the narcissistic thing. Or, as Kitty put it to me, "Why not? What's the worst that's going to happen? Twenty years down the road, someone's gonna find your picture? Just make sure it's a great picture."
Consider Casey Serin. On Iamfacingforeclosure.com, the 24-year-old émigré from Uzbekistan has blogged a truly disastrous financial saga: He purchased eight houses in eight months, looking to "fix 'n' flip," only to end up in massive debt. The details, which include scans of his financial documents, are raw enough that people have accused him of being a hoax, à la YouTube's Lonelygirl15. ("ForeclosureBoy24," he jokes.) He's real, he insists. Serin simply decided that airing his bad investments could win him helpful feedback--someone might even buy his properties. "A lot of people wonder, 'Aren't you embarrassed?' Maybe it's naïve, but I'm not going to run from responsibility."
"If that girl's video got published, if she did it in the first place, she should be thick-skinned enough to just brush it off," Xiyin muses. "I understand that it's really humiliating and everything. But if something like that happened to me, I hope I'd just say, well, that was a terrible thing for a guy to do, to put it online. But I did it and that's me. So I am a sexual person and I shouldn't have to hide my sexuality. I did this for my boyfriend just like you probably do this for your boyfriend, just that yours is not published. But to me, it's all the same. It's either documented online for other people to see or it's not, but either way you're still doing it. So my philosophy is, why hide it?"Of course, as this phenomenon is in the early stages, nobody knows entirely what kind of society will emerge from this:
For anyone over 30, this may be pretty hard to take. Perhaps you smell brimstone in the air, the sense of a devil's bargain: Is this what happens when we are all, eternally, onstage? It's not as if those fifties squares griping about Elvis were wrong, after all. As Clay Shirky points out, "All that stuff the elders said about rock and roll? They pretty much nailed it. Miscegenation, teenagers running wild, the end of marriage!"
Because the truth is, we're living in frontier country right now. We can take guesses at the future, but it's hard to gauge the effects of a drug while you're still taking it. What happens when a person who has archived her teens grows up? Will she regret her earlier decisions, or will she love the sturdy bridge she's built to her younger self--not to mention the access to the past lives of friends, enemies, romantic partners? On a more pragmatic level, what does this do when you apply for a job or meet the person you're going to marry? Will employers simply accept that everyone has a few videos of themselves trying to read the Bible while stoned? Will your kids watch those stoner Bible videos when they're 16? Is there a point in the aging process when a person will want to pull back that curtain--or will the MySpace crowd maintain these flexible, cheerfully thick-skinned personae all the way into the nursing home?
Online humorist Lore Sjöberg has finally bowed to the sort-of-inevitable and joined MySpace, the obnoxiously spammy, rather rubbish social-network website which everyone is, for some reason, on; he documents the process here:
In signing up, I give my actual birth date, which is already a faux pas. I'm not clear on the details, but I understand that on MySpace, no matter your actual age, you generally say you're 14.
Step Three: Invite your friends to join MySpace. Seriously. I haven't even seen my own page yet, and already they're hassling me to shill for them. This is like going to a restaurant where the waiter brings you a glass of water and a basket of rolls, then hands you the phone and asks you to call your friends and tell them how great the food is. I pass.He posted a follow-up a week later here:
The immediate effect of my publishing a link to my MySpace page last week was that I started getting friend requests from people with names like "Senor Discount" and "Johnny One-Spur." It seems shallow to accept people I've never met as friends, but I like to think that anyone named "Senor Discount" is excellent friend material, online or off. Anyhow, after approving all my new friends and triggering about 400 server errors in the process, I now have 319 friends. That's what I love about the internet -- it allows you to have more friends than casual acquaintances.
Next step is to add a background image. There are pages on MySpace without background images, but all they have going for them is legibility. Take it from me, a massive picture of an anime demon kitty in high heels and an extremely skimpy nurse's outfit says more about you than a thousand readable blog entries could. I don't have a picture like that, though, so I put up a photo I took of a frozen pizza I once bought that was supposed to be half pepperoni combo and half cheese, but the cheese "half" took up a lot more space than the combo half. I think that says a lot about me, too.
I look upon my MySpace, and I see that it is good. Each part of it competes with the other for attention, creating an experience that blasts the senses, yet leaves the psyche unaffected. The many voices combine into a colorful but meaningless roar. A metaphor, perhaps, for MySpace as a whole, or the web, or perhaps all of human existence. I also had a shirt like that once.I've so far avoided having a personal MySpace page; primarily because it's much like all the other social-network sites (anyone remember Friendster? SixDegrees?), only more rubbish and obnoxious and full of parasitic marketers and carpetbaggers eager to waste your time. I spend enough time cleaning out the spam from my mail; I don't need to devote another 15 minutes a day to batting off friend requests from brand campaigns and random strangers with nothing better to do. However, I might set up a MySpace page for a music project or a night.
Project Censored has published a list of the top 25 news stories you didn't hear of in the mainstream media:
1 Future of Internet Debate Ignored by Media
2 Halliburton Charged with Selling Nuclear Technologies to Iran
4 Hunger and Homelessness Increasing in the US
11 Dangers of Genetically Modified Food Confirmed
14 Homeland Security Contracts KBR to Build Detention Centers in the US
18 Physicist Challenges Official 9-11 Story
24 Cheney's Halliburton Stock Rose Over 3000 Percent Last Year
(via Boing Boing)
Today's Evening Standard headline: "CHATROOM LED TO MODEL'S MURDER"
Upon closer examination, the details of the story emerge. Apparently the model in question was murdered by her boyfriend at the time, whom she had initially met in an internet chatroom.
So yes, whilst one could say that, were it not for the chatroom, she'd probably still be alive, claiming that the Evil Evil Internet led directly to her death is a bit of a stretch. Though why let logic get in the way of selling copy?
What would happen if network neutrality rules were eliminated and internet carriers were free to set the terms for what goes through their networks? Well, the internet could look a lot more like the mobile phone system:
Imagine you want to create a user-moderated news service like digg.com that operates on SMS. On the neutral Internet, you rent a Web server ($7-$100 per month to start), register your name, and start programming. Total time required: less then two hours in most cases. But getting a service on the non-neutral US cell phone network would be a little different:
The next step is satisfying the requirements of the cell phone companies. Many of these steps, such as requiring affirmative opt-in before a subscription can start, are not burdensome, and serve to protect the carriers' customers. Others, however, border on ludicrous. Requirements vary by carrier, but some prohibit operators from offering games or sweepstakes, or require that subscription periods can only be monthly: not daily, weekly, or yearly. Others require that content, such as ringtones, be locked so users can't forward them from their phones to their friends' phones.
In practical terms, you'd never get approval for your brand new peer-mediated news service. Even if you were able to set up filters to block images and bad words, you'd still be sunk: Verizon prohibits "un-moderated chatting, flirting and/or peer-to-peer communication services."
Even if you could slip your service past the censors, you would already have been set back eight weeks and many thousands of dollars -- and this is just the beginning. Next, the carrier will charge you a fee (a few cents, typically) for every message you send to your users, and charge your users to receive your messages -- and charge them to send you messages. Just imagine where craigslist.org would be if it had to pay a few cents every time someone browsed an ad, and you had to pay as well. It's no wonder SMS services are overpriced and haven't grown beyond a niche market for ringtones and horoscopes.And along a similar line: Sidewalk Neutrality
As politicians and wowsers decry the evil, corrupting influence of video games, Tom Standage (author of The Victorian Internet) looks at the moral panics created by previous new technologies and media:
"The free access which many young people have to romances, novels, and plays has poisoned the mind and corrupted the morals of many a promising youth; and prevented others from improving their minds in useful knowledge. Parents take care to feed their children with wholesome diet; and yet how unconcerned about the provision for the mind, whether they are furnished with salutary food, or with trash, chaff, or poison?"
- Reverend Enos Hitchcock, Memoirs of the Bloomsgrove Family, 1790
"Many adults think that the crimes described in comic books are so far removed from the child's life that for children they are merely something imaginative or fantastic. But we have found this to be a great error. Comic books and life are connected. A bank robbery is easily translated into the rifling of a candy store. Delinquencies formerly restricted to adults are increasingly committed by young people and children ... All child drug addicts, and all children drawn into the narcotics traffic as messengers, with whom we have had contact, were inveterate comic-book readers This kind of thing is not good mental nourishment for children!"
- Fredric Wertham, Seduction of the Innocent, 1954
"The effect of rock and roll on young people, is to turn them into devil worshippers; to stimulate self-expression through sex; to provoke lawlessness; impair nervous stability and destroy the sanctity of marriage. It is an evil influence on the youth of our country."
- Minister Albert Carter, 1956
(via Boing Boing)
There may soon be top-level domains for cities; the push is being spearheaded by a German businessman who wants a .berlin domain:
ICANN recently green-lighted TLDs for geographical regions (.eu and .asia, as well as .cat, established to promote the culture of the Catalonia region of Spain).
"Cities are the next logical step," said Krischenowski, who added that .berlin is just "the tip of the iceberg." (A similar effort is under way in New York, to create .nyc.)And, of course, there is .la, bought by some Los Angeles entrepreneurs from Laos, but that already existed, so it doesn't count.
I wonder how fine-grained the allocation of domains will be; I imagine that, not long after .london and .nyc are allocated, someone will want things like .northlondon and .brooklyn. (Then again, perhaps London will get a bunch of postcode domains, with trendy Islington eateries getting .n1 domains and such.)
According to Technorati, one blog is created every second. The report doesn't say how many of those are search-engine spammers' link farms.
ICANN has approved the .xxx top-level domain, intended for use by porn sites, rejecting arguments that governments appealing to populist puritanism will eventually force all sex-related sites (including sex-education sites or those supporting victims of sexual abuse) into this easily-censorable ghetto.
Other new domains approved have been .jobs, .post and .cat. I wonder whether the last one means that cat pictures now have their own TLD.
Over a decade after The Year September Never Ended, AOL cuts off USENET access for its users. Don't hold your breath waiting for the blighted ecosystem to recover, though; pretty much everyone who values signal-to-noise ratios and not receiving megatons of spam has moved to mailing lists, blogs and web-based forums, leaving only marauding gangs of spammers and a hard core of freaky insane radioactive mutant porn pirates too far gone to be saved. Eleven years after September began, a "newsreader" has more to do with RSS feeds than NNTP, and in this cynical, spam-infested interweb, the USENET of the small, polite academic network of old is far too naïve to survive.
A look at John Howard-approved potential balance-of-power-holders Family First's internet policy:
Conservative political newcomer Family First wants an annual levy of $7 to $10 on all internet users to fund a $45 million mandatory national internet filtering scheme aimed at blocking pornographic and offensive content at server level.
via Road to Surfdom/Counterspin
In China, where minors are prohibited from entering internet cafes, gangs of net-starved teenagers are assaulting attendants who dare to kick them out.
(The article was published on the website of the Chinese government-controlled newspaper/agency Xinhua; the headlines at the bottom of the page are interesting; a lot of them are scathing, almost al-Qaeda-level criticism of the US in Iraq ("Images that shame US", "Iraq abuse exposes US double standards in human rights"-- ouch!), though between them is "Celine Dion cancels shows due to sprained neck". Is Celine Dion to China what David Hasselhoff was to Germany or something? She seems to be huge over there.
Remember all those claims about how the internet was to render tyranny and authoritarianism unviable and usher in a global blossoming of democracy, pluralism and liberty? Well, according to this article, that's not happening, and if anything, the web is helping to reinforce authoritarian regimes and dissipate dissent:
Singaporean dissident Gomez says the Web empowers individual members of a political movement, rather than the movement as a whole. Opposition members can offer dissenting opinions at will, thus undermining the leadership and potentially splintering the organization. In combating an authoritarian regime, in other words, there's such a thing as too much democracy. Two of the most successful opposition movements of the last few decades--the South African opposition led by Nelson Mandela and the Burmese resistance led by Aung San Suu Kyi--relied upon charismatic, almost authoritarian leaders to set a message followed by the rest of the movement. The anti-globalization movement, by contrast, has been a prime example of the anarchy that can develop when groups utilize the Web to organize. Allowing nearly anyone to make a statement or call a meeting via the Web, the anti-globalizers have wound up with large but unorganized rallies in which everyone from serious critics of free trade to advocates of witches and self-anointed saviors of famed death-row convict Mumia Abu Jumal have their say. To take just one example, at the anti-globalization World Social Forum held in Mumbai in January, nuanced critics of globalization like former World Bank chief economist Joseph Stiglitz shared space with, as The New York Times reported, "a long list of regional causes," including anti-Microsoft and anti-Coca Cola activists.
In China, the Web has similarly empowered the authorities. In the past two decades, Beijing's system of monitoring the population by installing informers into businesses, neighborhoods, and other social institutions has broken down--in part because the Chinese population has become more transient and in part because the regime's embrace of capitalism has meant fewer devoted Communists willing to spy for the government. But Beijing has replaced these legions of informers with a smaller group of dedicated security agents who monitor the Internet traffic of millions of Chinese.
Though the article suggests more that the effects of the internet will be slower to take effect, and more long-term. While China has clamped down on anti-government dissent more or less effectively, Chinese environmental activists are organising in ways they would have been unable to before; meanwhile, a new generation of urban Chinese are used to more freedom of choice and cultural expression, and the Communist Party has been forced to enshrine private property and human rights in law (not that that necessarily changes much, but it will). Maybe if we check back in 20 years' time, the verdict on the liberating potential of the internet will be different.
Then again, with the intellectual-property interests which increasingly make up most of the West's economies pushing for "trusted computing" systems, which could just as easily be used to stop samizdat as MP3 sharing, and the increasing will (on the part of both the public and legislators) to accept mechanisms of surveillance and control unthinkable three years ago to defend against an asymmetric terrorist threat, perhaps the liberating potential of computers has peaked, and it can only go downhill from here?
A few tidbits from civil-libertarian/paranoid-anarchist-nutter site vigilant.tv: in a classic exhibition of Gallic dirigisme, the French government is planning to install a centralised internet censorship proxy on all internet connections in France, to block racist and anti-Semitic websites. Meanwhile, the Australian government stopped publishing reports on its internet censorship scheme in late 2001 (I wonder whether they'll be claiming that they did this on grounds of national security). And finally, an ABC piece on how al-Qaeda use the internet.
Morse Code (remember that?) is moving into the 21st century; the International Telecommunications Union has approved the addition of a code for the @ sign, allowing those still using Morse to spell out their email addresses. The code is dot-dash-dash-dot-dash-dot. This is the first change to Morse Code since before World War 2.
A new RFC has been published, arguing why the idea of a ".sex domain" or of rewriting TCP/IP to include "adult-content" flags in packets would not work and probably do more harm than good:
The American Civil Liberties Union -- and other members of the international Global Internet Liberty Campaign -- caution that publishers speaking frankly about birth control, AIDS prevention, gay and lesbian sex, the social problem of prison rape, etc., could be coerced into moving to an adult domain. Once there, they would be stigmatized and easily blocked by schools, libraries, companies, and other groups using filtering software. Publishers of such information, who do not view themselves as pornographers and retain their existing addresses, could be targeted for prosecution.
Free wireless networking may save the world, if certain blogging hipster sci-fi authors are right, but it wasn't enough to save Niue. The Pacific island nation (best known as the home of the .nu domain), which had installed a free, island-wide wireless network and ushered in the new golden age of humanity ahead of the rest of the world, was flattened by storms which destroyed virtually all buildings on the island and killed an unknown number of people. The population of the island, which was 1,200 before the storm, is tipped to fall below 500, with the possibility that the independent nation may become unviable, and may be returned to New Zealand rule.
Danny O'Brien on how the pervasiveness of the internet is bringing about the end of the private register, i.e., of the sphere between public and secret. He uses as his example a private get-together of Californian technotopian types. The details were published on a private web site, where master sleuth Andrew Orlowski (the guy who heroically exposed the sinister influence of blogs and "googlewashing") dug them up and used them to pilliory this veritable Bilderberg conference on Segways on its puffed-up self-congratulatoriness.
But, the problem here is that no-one was advertising themselves as visionaries and geniuses. There was no advertising at all. The Wiki Andrew found was private: it wasn't written as publicity for the camp. Sure, the invite talked about "changing the world" and "smart people" - but these words have different meanings when you are trying to flatter and cajole your friends to come to your house for free. And when people say to one another "oh, you're all so smart", it's not a festival of mutual self-congratulation. It's what you say to people you've met who seem quite smart. Well, you do if you're not sitting fifty yards from them, arching your eyebrow significantly.
Somehow, though, that only makes things worse. Oh sure, they weren't telling the world that they were geniuses, the critics roar. They were meeting, secretly, to say it to each other. Without telling anyone.
Danny goes on to point out that on the web, things intended for a small audience of friends have a way of being exposed to the harsh light of public scorn, in exactly the way that face-to-face conversations over a few pints don't. Which is why things like britneyblogs and web journals attract so much mockery -- because they're not meant for the general public.
(Which ties in to my reason for setting up a LiveJournal, and the emerging separation of powers between this blog and the LJ; with LiveJournals, you get the very important ability to make posts which are friends-only, and invisible to anyone save for those in your list of friends (or a subset thereof), which saves you from shooting your mouth off about your small life and exposing your weaknesses/what a boring person you are to potential lovers/employers and/or millions of bored teenagers looking for "losers" to ridicule (ask Ghyslain Raza about that). Granted, it involves your friends having LJ accounts, but that's probably easier to arrange than setting up a password system on your blog and persuading them to indulge your paranoia and log in. It's still in the secret register, as Danny would say, but the secrecy is transparent to anyone who already has a LJ membership. (Btw, if you personally know me and want a LJ creation code, email/IM me.))
Thailand is tackling the problem of massive online game addiction head on; the Communications Technology Minister (presumably their equivalent of Senator Alston) has announced a game curfew. Access to multiplayer game servers will be blocked between 10pm and 6am, and internet cafe hours will also be curbed. No word on how this will be implemented: whether Thailand has a national firewall which can be programmed to do this or whether the onus will be on ISPs. The minister has announced other restrictions, including mandatory breaks every 2 hours and ID cards to ensure players do not profit from games (presumably by selling their characters).
The south-east Asian country of Laos has done the equivalent of selling the spare kidney for much-needed dollars and sold its Internet domain to Los Angeles. Under the deal, which has been approved by ICANN, the cultural capital of McWorld is now the first city to have its own top-level domain; consequently, there are now domains such as arnie.la and madonna.la.
I've noticed that neither .lo nor .ny are actual TLDs; perhaps if this sets a precedent, London and New York can snap those up and use them to merchandise their cultural capital.
China's Internet censorship regime, with its Cisco-powered "great firewall" and armies of censors waging relentless war on criticism, is often cited as disproof of the old cyber-utopian saw that the Internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it; its apparent success against all odds has undoubtedly been heartening to other proponents of keeping a firm hand, from Singapore to Cuba, and from Saudi Arabia to our own Senator Alston. But as Reporters Without Borders investigator Gao Zheng is finding out (through a form of controlled forum trolling), the censors' grip is slipping:
Gao provisionally rates every bit of text on a scale of 1 to 10 before he posts it. His initial "sensitivity" rating is usually a good indication of the time the posting will last on the public area of the news site. A "1" is something totally unthreatening, while a "10" would be lucky to get online at all and would remain for just minutes if it did.
"Look at this one," Gao says, pointing to another comment made by a user on Sina.com some hours before. "It says, 'Why arent we protesting in the streets against this war like other countries are doing and like we did after the U.S. bombing of our embassy in Yugoslavia?'" "Its been there for several hours already. Surprising it would be allowed to stay so long. I mean, this isnt just foreign policy chitchat; this is a call for people to go out into the streets. This is an eight or a nine, certainly. Very dangerous."
Oil is not the only commodity with which the Iraqi people can repay us for liberating them; a British firm wants to auction off .iq Internet domains, and promises to use the proceeds to pay for rebuilding Iraq's Internet infrastructure.
Never let it be said that the Australian government doesn't stand for anything. Its commitment to the Australian people's absolute right to life, for example, has moved it to prosecute people providing suicide information on the internet. I guess this means that alt.suicide.holiday will be blocked by Senator Alston's national firewall then.
Veteran Communist dictator turned anti-globalisation movement hero and World's First Punk Statesman, Fidel Castro hails the Internet as a weapon against communications monopolies, by which he probably means the evil Yanqui capitalist propaganda engines. Given that this is coming from a despot who keeps a draconian grip on all means of communication and organisation in his prison-state (even the Cuban Government's overseas propaganda publications are banned at home, because ordinary Cubans are forbidden from knowing the details the government's propagandists have to put in to give them credibility to McWorlders), I must say this rings a little hollow. Though he probably said it for the benefit of the Nu Marxists in the protest movement. (via TechDirt)
(Btw, is there anybody like Salam Pax in Havana, somehow managing to keep a blog and avoid the attentions of the secret police? (I mean anyone who isn't a transparent propaganda ploy by one side or the other?))
Iran's religious police have arrested dozens of young people for internet dating:
General Ahmad Rouzbehani told Irna: "Some people were using an internet site to allow girls and boys to talk and arrange meetings in a place in north Tehran where they had illegal relations."
The Realities of Online Reputation Management, an essay about the Internet's effect on reputation and spin.
Hate campaigns are surprisingly unsuccessful with the masses. Certainly hate sites attract the like-minded, and for awhile got good mainstream media attention. But again, the "Back" button. On the Web there is always another "channel." The ethnic slaughters in the wake of Yugoslavia's disintegration were largely blamed on inflammatory talk radio - and the absence of contrary opinion.
In a similar vein, at present it would probably be impossible to spread a false "oil shortage" story through the Internet, as the American oil companies and mainstream media did in 1972. In fact the Internet would probably demolish such propaganda in days. In 1972, it was not until months later that a merchant marine officer told me how his oil supertanker had been held off the New Jersey coast for six weeks at the height of the "oil shortage." Today, he would have emailed Matt Drudge.
Of course, the fact that the Internet has put paid to older forms of skulduggery doesn't mean that new, more subtle forms won't take their place. (via Slashdot)
The US Department of Defense recently investigated ways of redesigning the Internet to eliminate that pesky anonymity that allows terrorists, paedophiles, drug traffickers, Green Party activists and evil, evil people to go about their dastardly deeds undetected. After attempting to fudge a politically expedient result (or at least one likely to get money thrown in its direction, in the name of "national security"), they concluded that it was impractical and scrapped the idea.
I wonder how long until the MPAA/RIAA revive the idea and start pushing hard for Internet protocols to be rewritten to stamp out this un-American "file sharing" idea and protect their business models, late capitalism and the American Way.
Another reason to invade Iraq? A distributed denial-of-service attack disabled 9 of the 13 root servers running the Internet domain name system. (The article, cluelessly enough, refers to them as "Web servers".) Fortunately, the attack lasted only an hour and didn't cause major disruption.
The spread of the Internet has cost 400 jobs, namely those of carrier pigeons in India made redundant by the rise of email. (via Techdirt)