Wednesday 28 May 2008

Windows Seven: Much ado about nothing

Windows SevenPaul Thurrott on Wininfo Daily News 27/05/08:

Microsoft has been very cagey about Windows 7, the successor to Windows Vista that's set for a 2010 release. Theories about the company's silence on Windows 7 are numerous, but most point to Microsoft Senior Vice President Steven Sinofsky, the man most directly responsible for Windows development. That's because Sinofsky is close-lipped and calculating, in direct contrast to his predecessor, Jim Allchin. This week, however, Sinofsky and company opened the doors and offered a brief peek at Windows 7 for the first time. A very brief peek.

Both [Sinofsky and Flores] claimed that Windows 7 would be a "major" or "significant" version of Windows, but both then went to great lengths to describe how the technical underpinnings of Windows 7 are based on Vista and will thus not incur any additional compatibility headaches. That, dear reader, is how Microsoft typically defines a minor, or R2 ("release 2") version of Windows.

Despite these mixed signals, my understanding was that the next version of windows was always going to be a Vista Second Edition. That said, Microsoft have got their work cut out rebuilding the credibility of windows after the public perception problems that have plagued Vista. Maybe that’s why they are keen to distance the upcoming release from the Vista nomenclature.

Tuesday 27 May 2008

Mosley’s sexual antics, no reason to remove him

Sexual Privacy Being an avid F1 fan, I’ve been following closely the most recent scandal to afflict Formula One. Way back in March, the News of the World released an expose of FIA president Max Mosley’s sexual shenanigans with 4 prostitutes in which he was filmed participating in an array of sadomasochistic capers. Alleged by the News of the World, although fervently denied by Mosley, was that role-playing scenes based on a Nazi concentration camp setting were acted out in the course of the activities.

Given the highly sensitive and contentious nature of Mosley’s alleged activities, many in the F1 paddock have been keen to distance themselves as far as possible from the beleaguered FIA president. Many consider Mosley’s continuance in the role as untenable. In April, even F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone turned against his tacitly acknowledged right-hand-man.

With Mosley up to face a vote of confidence in an extraordinary general meeting he called of the FIA, scheduled for 3rd June, time may well be running out.

Personally, I have always believed Mosley to do a good job in what is an incredibly difficult role. He works hard as FIA president, has helped the sport weather many crises and is sufficiently forward-thinking to help lead the sport in the future. Whatever Mosley chooses to do in his private time, it does nothing to detract from the great job he does as president.

As David Pannick points out in his article for the Times Law supplement this week:

while there are many reasons for removing Mr Mosley from office, his sordid private life, as exposed in the News of the World, is not one of them.”

Mosley currently has a high court action pending in which he is suing the News of the World for breach of privacy.  Pannick again:

 There is no conceivable public interest, however interested the public may be, in a newspaper exposing that Mr Mosley,...
The newspaper seeks to justify the intrusion by arguing that Mr Mosley is a public figure and the public are entitled to know what sort of man he is.

But as Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, as Master of the Rolls, stated in the Naomi Campbell case in 2002: “The fact that an individual has achieved prominence on the public stage does not mean that his private life can be laid bare by the media.” Even if Mr Mosley’s sex life involves fantasising about concentration camps (which he denies), that does not make it anything more than part of his fantasy sex life. To recognise a defence for the newspaper in such a case would be generally to deny public figures a right to privacy for their sexual identity.”

On the face of it, you can’t argue with the logic of that. I’m no expert in privacy law but I’d say that Mosley is certainly in with a shout as far as the high court action is concerned. As for the future of his role as FIA president, the outlook is perhaps more bleak. The meeting on June 3rd is going to be nip and tuck to say the least. I’ve no doubt of Moseley’s continued aptitude to do his job, but in a sport in which politics and scheming machiavellian chancers are rife, I’m not sure if this is one battle Mosley has already lost.

Sunday 25 May 2008

Wii Fit calls girl fat

Wii fit picture From 21/05/08:

"Nintendo has admitted that its Wii Fit game may not be suitable for children as its calculations of body mass index are designed for adults.

A row erupted after 11 year-old Tabea Paul was told by the game that she was overweight.

The girl's parents were angered by the suggestion, and have said that the game could have given the child an eating disorder."

What I loved, though, was the response to this story in an email from weekly news report:

"An offhand prediction based on a very 'rule-of-thumb' calculation would not cause an eating disorder in a young girl unless she already had a range of much more deep seated psychological issues, probably brought on by years of smothering by over-protective parents.

That the game might have been wrong in this case is secondary. In any person's life they are going to be confronted by things they don't like and sometimes they aren't going to be true. That's life and people really need to learn to deal with it."

Amen to that.

Saturday 24 May 2008

Blogging - a bit 'last year'

Blogging - old-fashioned Have web technologies evolved far beyond the blog already? Are bloggers a bit 'last year'?  Granted, blogs aren't exactly the newest thing on the web these days and the style and purpose of blogs continue to evolve into something more community-oriented. 

But is being a blogger something to be ashamed of?

According to Leo Laporte and Amber MacArthur in this week's Net @ Night podcast the blog is far from the cutting edge.

: "it just feels to me that it's sooooo nineties" ...."the term 'blog' just seems diminutive".

"Blogs are big but they're a little bit mainstream"... [they] "seem a bit old-fashioned".

Amber: [the term blogger] "almost seems like an insult". 

And her response to people who introduce her as a blogger? "You know what, I don't actually blog that much". 

Friday 23 May 2008

When social networking goes too far

All regular visitors to Law Actually know of my dislike of the more popular social networking sites out there.  This video, I think, neatly encapsulates everything I hate about the highly pervasive and over-powering nature of these Facebook, My Space, Bebo etc. etc. and their perceiving importance on the web and in people's lives right now.  On seeing this video it really drives home exactly how 'social' and 'communitised' the web has become and how such platforms think they know what people want to see, read and do on the web.

Quite frankly, I find the whole concept of them something akin to being overrun by poison ivy.

In the video the social networking sites try to make 'My Space' wake up and realise the dream is over, and how he is already sliding into obscurity.  After initially holding his nerve, poor My Space is forced to admit defeat, firstly to Facebook.  "You've been dying for this to happen with your 'superpokes' and your 'megawall'.   How am I supposed to compete? -  there's a new application on there everyday, every God-damn day"!

On the brink of cracking, Adult Friend Finder recognises that he 'needs a girlfriend'.  Luckily she knows "12 girls in this area looking for sex, tonight!!!

Great stuff.

Thursday 22 May 2008

The Mobile Phone has come a long way
















I've never been a massive mobile phone user and generally find  'txting' a massive annoyance.  That said, I have possessed a fair few mobile handsets over the last 8 years - some good, some not quite so and one downright awful.  This amusing little number that I found via Windows Secrets documents exactly how far the mobile phone has come.

Wednesday 21 May 2008

New judicial robes - get over it

New Judge Gown From The Times 15.05.08

“Debate rages on the new Betty Jackson-designed robe. Verdicts are mixed, although in The Times' letters page today, Professor Sir John Baker expresses alarm to find “our judges wanting to look like warlords from outer space”, while one Times Online contributor says the new garb is “a cross between a Star Trek costume and a fascist storm-trooper's uniform”.

I’ve read a lot of opinion arguing both ways for the new robes. Some say it will add to costs, at least in the short term and that’s even before you get to the fact judges wearing the new garb will resemble something between Captain Kirk and a walking pause button. Others recognise the fact that dressing judges as if they were from the 17th Century doesn't make a whole lot of sense any more.  Whatever your personal opinion, concerns undoubtedly remain over the new robes, particularly as regards the expected durability, and ease of identification for the public.  It's difficult to completely avoid the feeling that this might just be change for change's sake and a move that bears no reflection to the desires of the public, the bar and indeed the judiciary.  But surely, now the decision has been made to implement this new dress code for certain judges, let’s just get on with it. Life’s too short to be bickering over this stuff. 

Sunday 18 May 2008

Avoid airport hassle by hiding your data

Laptop Airport Security From The Guardian 15.5.08:

“Last month a US court ruled that border agents can search your laptop, or any other electronic device, when you're entering the country. They can take your computer and download its entire contents, or keep it for several days. Customs and Border Patrol has not published any rules regarding this practice, and I and others have written a letter to Congress urging it to investigate and regulate this practice.

But the US is not alone. British customs agents search laptops for pornography. And there are reports on the internet of this sort of thing happening at other borders, too.”

What puzzles me is exactly what the criteria border officials use to decide which laptops to search and which to wave through. How exactly do you identify someone who is likely to have child pornography on their computers or otherwise got something to hide in the real world?  Are those searches performed purely at random?  Or, if you're of a more cynical disposition, you might be of the opinion that a person's ethnicity factors in considerably - particularly as regards perceived threats to national security.

Anyway, the article goes on to advise that simply encrypting the whole drive is not necessarily the answer here; the official will merely demand you enter the password. And while you can refuse, they too can refuse to allow you entry.

Instead, hiding your data with a hidden, encrypted partition is the way to go. PGP and TrueCrypt are two well-respected offerings as highlighted in the article. TrueCrypt is especially excellent and free, open-source software as well. There is a thorough - if a little geeky - podcast detailing the ins-and-outs of the latest version of TrueCrypt by world renowned security guru Steve Gibson as part of the Security Now section on TWiT. When I first listened to it earlier this year, I was fascinated to head that far from slowing down system performance as you might expect encryption to do, Steve found it actually increased system performance on any machine it was installed on. I have used the paid version of Steganos Safe for the past 2/3 years and find it excellent for my needs. Last year, they even made a free version available, Safe One, which limits you to creating two, 1GB encrypted drives.

Of course, there is always the option of just not carrying confidential data on your laptop when you travel across national boundaries, or encrypt it on a USB key and secret it about your person. Or, if you’re feeling very sneaky and secret-agent-ish, encrypt it on a memory card for your camera.

Saturday 17 May 2008

Gamer Girls

Gamer GirlI was kind of interested to read earlier this week that females made up 41% of the video gaming market in Australia. That, actually, was a little higher than I had expected. Slowly, it seems, the industry is shrugging off the stubborn stereotype that gaming is solely the preserve of teenage boys and socially inept middle-aged men who still live with their parents.

While I haven’t looked that closely into the statistics in the UK, from what I’ve read the situation over here isn’t that dissimilar to that in Australia. Also, from a worldwide perspective, there can be little doubt that gaming amongst females is on the rise. Whatever your view of gaming, that trend isn’t necessarily a bad thing; there’s a lot to be said for gaming and it can prove a great way of reliving stress and relaxing. While negative arguments can also be made out involving the perceived uselessness of gaming and its perceived tendency to incite violence and copy-catting, let’s face it: there are a lot worse things that people could be doing with their time. What is noticeable, though, is the distinct lack of titles pitched at females – something the article points out too. That will surely change in going forwards as the industry responds to their changing customer base. So yes, in the future, there may well be more games directed at females that aren’t part of ‘The Sims’ series. Seriously!

I’m not a big gamer and have never owned my own dedicated console. I have, however, played PC games on and off over the years and am a particular fan of First Person Shooters. Most notably, I became certifiably obsessed with Half Life back in the summer of 2001. I hope my hard-core gaming days are behind me: 18 hour, non-stop gaming stints are only feasibly possible when you’re a caffeine-fuelled, compulsive teenager. For what it’s worth, I’m also rather partial to various racing games, Grand Prix 4, various rallying titles, and the Need for Speed series.

Note to self: must also get that copy of Grand Theft Auto IV I’ve been eying.

Thursday 15 May 2008

10 ways the Chinese internet is different from yours

Chinese Internet UserThe fact the Chinese government are vetting internet access is hardly news these days but it’s still an interesting topic and reason to be thankful it remains the exception rather the norm. I ran across an interesting article on Networked World about ’10 ways the Chinese internet is different from yours’.

#5 It's censored [obviously]

The Chinese government is believed to employ tens of thousands of censors who monitor bloggers and delete offensive or subversive material. These censors require ISPs and other Internet companies to stop posting articles, forums and blogs about controversial subjects.

#1 It's slower [oh!?]

Due to congestion on China's backbone networks and the time it takes for communications to travel across undersea cables to the United States and Europe, travelers find a noticeable difference in the responsiveness of the Internet in China compared to the rest of the world.

#4 Blackouts are common [oh boy]

If the Chinese government finds that a user has downloaded forbidden content, it breaks the connection and prohibits the user from establishing communications with the site. These blackouts can last anywhere from two minutes to an hour.

#3 Access to foreign Web sites is limited [oh great!]

The Chinese government uses four mechanisms -- DNS blocking, reset commands, URL keyword blocking and content scanning -- to prevent Internet users in the country from reaching blacklisted Web sites or content.

Sounds bad, right? But there are some positives:

Less spam, less malware and phishing scams and err, less porn.

Saturday 10 May 2008

Facebook... again

Devillish FacebookI feel I’ve been giving Facebook a bit of an easy time recently; I’ve hardly mentioned it on Law Actually at all. So what the hell, let’s make up for it now. But don’t worry – I’m not just going to berate them for the fun of it – there’s actually genuine news developments going on here.

From Wininfo Short-takes for 12.5.08:

Facebook [finally] Protects the Kids
"Social networking service Facebook has agreed to institute a broad set of policies aimed at protecting young users from online predators and offensive content. The change, which comes at the request of 49 US state attorneys, will require a bit of behavioral technology to weed out those who really are 18 years old from those who are clearly 49."

It’s not entirely clear whether this policy will be rolled out to all countries in time or whether it’s going to remain solely a ‘US thing’. While I sincerely hope it proves to be the former, either way, this development is at least two years too late. I’ve been clamouring for this for so long, I’m kind of shocked it’s finally happened.

Microsoft looks to snap up Facebook

Since the whole Yahoo takeover will-they, won’t-they went belly-up this earlier this week, Microsoft have been busy licking their lips, contemplating which other company to sink their teeth into. Well, now it seems they’ve turned their sights to Facebook.

As it turns out, Microsoft already own a stake in Facebook – 1.6% to be exact. Paying $240 million for that paltry slice back in 2007, it puts a value on the company of $15 billion. Yeah, you read that correctly. I don’t get it either.

As Paul Thurrott points out in his Wininfo article:

Few believe Facebook is worth anywhere near that, however. The site currently has about 109 million unique visitors a month, making it the fifth most-visited Web property after Google (625 million), Microsoft (563 million), Yahoo! (505 million), and MySpace (117 million).

While Facebook's numbers are up dramatically year over year, the company has faltered in its bid to monetize its popularity. Facebook makes very little via advertising, and half of its revenues from 2007 were derived directly from Microsoft's investment.”

Buying Facebook doesn’t appear to be a very logical back-up plan. Okay, they might be looking to score a home run with the social networking side of things but what else does it give Microsoft? The Yahoo acquisition would have given Redmond a substantial leg-up across a broad range on online technologies to help them better compete with Google. After all, that’s the whole reason they’re doing this in the first place. But what do they get with Facebook? It makes very little money, is already a fairly mature and full-featured social networking tool and, remains at risk of falling out of favour in the social networking world. After all, people get bored easily with online technologies; while they’re flying high at the moment, who’s to say it’ll last?

Wednesday 7 May 2008

Micro-hoo dead in the water

Yahoo drowning From Paul Thurrott on the Supersite for Windows Blog 04.05.08:

Well, it looks like Microsoft's attempt at a hostile takeover of Yahoo! is over. And really, thank God for  that one: Yahoo! is the tech equivalent of a bad loan, something that would have come back to bite Microsoft sooner rather than later. So while it's unclear what the future holds--I'm looking for other Microsoft investments and purchases in the Facebook/MySpace area--I thought it might be interesting to look back at my coverage of this event in chronological order. In compiling these excerpts, I'm struck by how much press this generated over the past few months. And I'm so happy to put this behind us.

Given how long, protracted and eventually bitter this merger-come-takeover bid became, I'm of the same opinion as Paul on this.  It would never have worked as Microsoft had intended and the best thing they could do was to drop it like the hot brick that it is.  I've also heard on the grapevine that Yahoo are losing talent faster than the Titanic took on water as key engineers look to jump ship before it's too late.  And to be worthwhile, Microsoft were going to need to inherit every braincell Yahoo had to offer for the crazy price they would have stumped up.  By standing firm on price demands, Yahoo, it seems, shot themselves in the proverbial.  Now they've scuppered whatever chance they had of a viable future and alienated their shareholders to boot. 

Sure, you still hear the odd, 'it might still happen' type news story doing the rounds on the net, but it truly does look as though Microsoft and Yahoo are going go their separate ways.  For Microsoft, who knows what that might mean and down what avenues they'll venture in the cloud computing era before us.  For Yahoo, though, the picture is clearer: it looks as though the only way is down.  And out, probably.

Tuesday 6 May 2008

Speed camera captures 'full moon'

mooning_incident From BBC News 1.5.08:

A front seat car passenger was photographed baring his backside at a speed camera in Northumberland.

The "mooning" man was snapped by the mobile camera as the black BMW X5 drove past on the A1171 Dudley Lane in Cramlington last month. His behaviour has been labelled as "dangerous and offensive" by road safety campaigners.

Police may take action against the man for public order offences and not wearing a seat belt. Officers have the registration of the car, which was not breaking the speed limit, and intend to contact its owner. It is understood the driver will not face prosecution as no driving offence was being committed.

I guess it brings a new meaning to those cheesy car-window stickers, 'smile for the speed camera'.  This story reminded me of the time when someone from my secondary school mooned at the bus driver after the journey home, as schoolboys - well, prefects in this instance - are wont to do. 

What I immediately wondered was whether it was pre-meditated.  I'm assuming it was, here.  Did the driving duo pass the mobile unit and think, "I'm going to get that sucker on the way back"?  Did then, as the driver approached the 'drop zone' give his passenger the nod as it were, indicating it was time to 'pull them down' and bare all?  Surely he must have: I mean, manoeuvring oneself round to an angle and position to moon out of the window is not exactly an easy trick to pull off without warning, even in an SUV.

Friday 2 May 2008

Thursday check-in

img_70751 I've been pretty busy of late and not blogging that much.  To make matters worse, I've also been on the road quite a bit in the last week or so, house-hunting, preparing for my impending move.  Thankfully I can report it's been fairly productive so far and there are a lot of suitable properties about.  In other words, then, it's the antithesis of my experiences last time I was looking about 9 months ago.  Note to self: never, ever, leave things so last-minute again.  I think I've learnt my lesson on that score.

I've been somewhat amazed at the amount of traffic my blogging about the new OGC logo has generated in the last week.  I keep a fairly regular check on the traffic on Law Actually and it's sky-rocketed in the last 7 days.  Now it's back to reality I suppose.  Sigh.

I swung by the Rix FM site earlier today, mainly to check out the picture gallery from Rix Morron Zoo.  I first discovered the Swedish radio station Rix FM  when I was studying in Sweden during the 2004-2005 academic year and quickly became a regular listener.  Even after my return to the UK, I still tuned in to their online content, mostly for the crazy exploits of Rix Morron Zoo.  Alas, I don't get round to it nearly as much now, but still like to 'check in' occasionally.  I was interested to see that 'the Zoo' as I used to dub them, made it to Ramundberget this week for After Ski 1000.  I shouldn't be surprised though, as the trio were never ones to shy away from alpine action and off-piste capers.  Seems like they had great weather though and the lovely Titti Schultz made the most of it, despite looking a little pensive on the slopes.