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Useful idiots/so-called hackers

Last week two bits of news struck me as misguided. First there was a court in Amsterdam stating that abuse of a WiFi network, does not equal breaking into a computer system, even if such a WiFi network had some form of security measures such as password protection. Lots of geeky types, including those identify themselves as hackers, cheered this decision as a blessing of WiFi-cracking.

Another thing that hit the Dutch part of the internet were pictures of the innards of a so-called ‘OV-chipkaart’ terminal which had been pulled out of a railway station platform. This was also celebrated by roughly the same demographic. Continue reading ›

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Korean Zombie PC Prevention Bill

One can hope that legislative stupidity is not contagious, but would be terminally naive to do so. So although the Korean proposals for a bill that makes security software on computers mandatory and grants the authorities the power to check for the existence of mandated security software on computers seems rather far-fetched, it is probably closer than we think. So it is worth to point out the rubbishness and sheer danger of this idea in addition to the fine points made by Amelia Andersdotter. The only good part of the Korean Zombie PC Prevention Bill is that it would make a fine punk band name, but other than that it is beyond useless. Continue reading ›

Rant: why digital levies won’t work

Last week the Dutch artist’s union and the the Dutch consumer association jointly proposed a levy for digital media and internet connectivity. The flipside of this deal would be that downloading stays legal in the Netherlands (as it currently is). And no three-strikes-and-you’re-out legislation either. Hurray! Obviously, the electronics industry is vehemently against it. And so am I. Because the notion of collective rights societies distributing levies in any form is an idea whose time is behind us. It just sweeps the problem of any renumeration of artists for fair use under the rug of an opaque collective rights society. Any form of compensation of fair use of copyrighted works runs into the same wall: how do you distribute the proceedings in a way that at the very least resembles fairness if you can’t meter the actual use? Which brings you to one of the main reasons why the use in question is considered fair use: metering it would be too much of an intrusion in personal life. By now we should realise that the intrinsical fairness of the notion that an artist should be compensated for fair use is drowned out by the intrinsical unfairness of any metric for distributing the proceedings. Or in other words: that we can’t make it work. Maybe it is time to accept the reality that any harm caused by filesharing in the private domain is by far the lesser evil of the harms of any scheme trying to compensate it. Artist do profit from the cost savings digital technology brings them when producing creative works, they probably should also accept the darker side of digital technology in bringing down distribution costs to almost zero. Fair use copying is just the wastage of the digial era.

Maybe it is time to be reminded of one of the old Turkish folk stories about Nasreddin Hoca:

Nasreddin and the Smell of Soup

One day, a poor man, who had only one piece of bread to eat, was walking past a restaurant. There was a large pot of soup on the table. The poor man held his bread over the soup, so the steam from the soup went into the bread, and gave it a good smell. Then he ate the bread.

The restaurant owner was very angry at this, and he asked the man for money, in exchange for the steam from the soup. The poor man had no money, so the restaurant owner took him to Nasreddin, who was a judge at that time. Nasreddin thought about the case for a little while.

Then he took some money from his pocket. He held the coins next to the restaurant owner’s ear, and shook them, so that they made a jingling noise.

“What was that?” asked the restaurant owner.

“That was payment for you,” answered Nasreddin.

“What do you mean? That was just the sound of coins!” protested the restaurant owner.

“The sound of the coins is payment for the smell of the soup,” answered Nasreddin. “Now go back to your restaurant.”

Website Idea: Tree of Technology

First of all, there is this brilliant project called the Tree of Life web project. It is a gorgeous catalog of the taxonomy of all species known to man. Which gave me the following idea: like species, most technologies have precursors (the economies of building steam engines aren’t so nice if you don’t have metallurgy, for example). In fact, much of the gaming rules of strategy games such as Sid Meier’s Civilization revolve around (simplified and historically incorrect) technology trees. It would therefore be wonderful to have something like the Tree of Life web project for the history of innovation and technology. But of course I can’t be bothered to do it myself.

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Rant: the elusive open source/free software desktop

Every once in a while there is this happy, chirpy announcement of an organisation (usually a public body) that it will start a project to replace its current closed desktop with an open source one.  And while I hate Windows XP (any edition, and let it be known there is nothing ‘professional’ about Windows XP Professional) with the hatred of a few thousands suns, I strongly feel the vast majority of these attempts to be misguided. 2010 is not going to be the year of Linux on the desktop, nor is 2011 likely to be. I used to think that the year of the open desktop was about three years away, but that was in 1998 and we’re twelve years down the line now. Continue reading ›

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Kick off

Let’s kick off with an idea that is definitely not mine, but something profoundly silly and rather well executed. Continue reading ›

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