Blog 2013

this is a hack!

tattoed fairy from a PlayMobil set
the new fairy

In these days, when fairies colour their hair red and wear tattoos of Maori inspiration, I feel like I come from a past more distant.  How and what should I think?

I don't like the word blog.  For several years I have tried to write a chronicle on the happenings of the day and failed.  Let me make yet another attempt…

2013-12-30 10:00

I found so many of them, that I made a mention on a separate page: 8-sided ice crystals.

2013-12-27 23:03

So Mr. Snowden thinks our privacy is lost to our governments.  I cite from his Christmas speech:

... recently we learned that our governments working in concert have created a system of world-wide mass surveillance, watching everything we do ...

... we have sensors in our pockets that track us everywhere we go ...

... the conversation {recording/recorded} today will determine the amount of trust we can place both in the technology that surrounds us and the government that regulates it ...

Let me note that the sensors in your pocket (not my pocket, I have them switched OFF) have been placed there by commercial companies, and that those companies are working in concert to make it almost impossible for you to go about your daily life without giving away your privacy to them.  That some governments tap into this mass of private information is almost a perverse side effect.  The real cuplrits, which Mr. Snowden either refuses to mention or is too naieve to mention, are from private enterprise.  I mention here only a few that are active in my sphere daily, but there are many, many more:

The list is growing every day, and every day it becomes more difficult to stay out of the clutches of these privacy-invading companies, and every day they are working more "in concert" as Mr. Snowden puts it.

The biggest, most irritating and most pervasive trespassing on my private sphere does not come from the governments I have to deal with, but from private enterprise that is not even incorporated in the legal space where I live.

It is that, Mr. Snowden, that is dangerous, because these companies are not answerable to the citizens.

You may also note, Mr. Snowden, that your own family and friends make it almost impossible to avoid these world-wide collectors of private data:  can you still resist the pressure to be active on Twitter, FaceBook, Google, Skype, PayPal, …?

Yes, these giants provide desirable services to the masses, but they cannot be held accountable by those who use them.  The data they have about us is not secure with them.  Yet, Mr. Snowden, you do not mention them.

2013-12-09 11:37

The head of Facebook wants greater disclosure and limits on how governments (his plural!) collect information.  I agree, and Zuckerberg is joined by executives from Google, Apple, Twitter and so on in voicing this concern.  But… can we also know fully what these companies collect about us?  And, since companies are not government, can we have the right to have our accounts and all information about us destroyed?

I can vote for a different government, even emigrate to a different country if necessary.  But in today's world I cannot choose which "Google Earth" I use, or which "Twitter" I tweet on, or which "Facebook" to interface with.  I have effectively no choice, apart from retreating from "internet life".  These monopolies operate world-wide, independently of any government.  They behave as if they are above government.  Is this normal or tolerable?

2013-12-02 23:41

And there we go again.  I just heard that the new versions of Adobe Illustrator have "finally" made the y-coordinate axis point… down.  I only use Illustrator to make technical drawings.  PostScript had it right:  it used the standard Cartesian coordinate system of mathematics:  x points to the right, y points up, angles start at zero along x and increase counter-clockwise.  In Cartesian coordinates "more" is "higher".  With the new versions I would be locked in to the moronic system that is glued to the top-left corner of the screen.  And seemingly no way to set an option somewhwere to get the Cartesian coordinates back.  In their infinite wisdom, Adobe did make scripts backwards compatible, so if you move something by +10mm it will move down if done interactively, but up if done by script.  Great.  Of course, SVG does it wrong too.

2013-10-23 20:18

Today I wrote to an Apple discussion forum, but my post was removed because it "contained non constructive rants or complaints".

The full discussion is at https://discussions.apple.com/message/23480733?ac_cid=tw123456#23480733?ac_cid=tw123456.  Of course I do not retract a single word of what I wrote.

(I think I'm coming from a (physical) place close to Gerrit's but it is irrelevant)

When Lion came out I was very suspicious and bought (!) a separate laptop just to see.

Lucky I did that: it took me TWO YEARS to get around the horrible stuff in Lion, then Mountain Lion. I just finally switched to Mountain Lion last week... There were so many unannounced pitfalls in Lion.

Mavericks is a honey pot: it is free, but it comes with a leash.

I don't need any of its "features" to be productive. Most are in fact in my way.

This is not the place to rant about those details though.

Back to the main subject:

By installing Mavericks you are tricked into the iCloud. I consider cloud services not a bad thing in themselves, but I do want a bilateral contract with any company that provides such services for me. And I want a choice of such companies. Would anyone buy a car that can only be filled up at petrol stations of a certain brand?

As clients, what are our options? (I have had Macs since 1984...)

I hope that some politicians will start denouncing this kind of monopoly-building. That has succeeded in the past to some extent, e.g. for the pre-installed operating systems, for the choice of search engines, and perhaps a few other items, I don't know.

It is time to raise awareness again, and work in favour of guaranteed compatibility between services.

2013-10-21

Even the BBC is now getting pretty bad at units.  In their article about the upcoming deal to build a nuclear power plant in the UK, they write:  …price … £92.50 for every megawatt hour of energy Hinkley C generates per hour. First, a megawatt hour (MWh) is energy, it does not matter in what time it is produced.  A MWh per hour is just a MW and there is no price on that.  Secondly, a MWh is 1000kWh, so what is wrong with saying 9.25 pence per kWh?  At least a larger section of the population might understand that.

2013-09-30

Just saw this: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-24330771.  It reports that FaceBook users can now modify posts, but the BBC page does not invite readers to comment, as comments are mostly going through… the BBC's FaceBook pages.

Let's note that web pages could always be modified by whoever owns them.  The concern voiced by companies was always there.  Some of my pages refer to other sites, and those other pages can be modified or removed at the discretion of the owners of those sites.

The power of the web is in the ability to link to other content.  If this is threathened, then where will we go?  Trust and honesty should be valued, abuse should be punished.  But on the web that is difficult to do:  there is no traceability, no identity, no global legal framework.

2013-08-25

Commenting on BBC page "Society is losing the plot" I wrote:

Lord Sacks's analysis is spot on and very well expressed.  I am a convinced atheist, but have seen the same effects all over the world.  Trust is built when people work physically close together.  It disappears with high mobility, fast turnover in the workplace and the neighbourhood, increased social interaction through machinery instead of direct contact, lower education, high income inequality and so on.  All of these however do not come from loss of faith or secularisation, but are pushed on us by commercial greed.  Sadly, many of the most greedy manipulators also profess themselves to be religious.

I do not want to go back to a wife-at-the-hearth society, I'd rather see governments regulate the financial industry, where most greed is.  People become cynical when they see their wages go down while the company increases its profits:  they lose trust first in the workplace, then in government, then everywhere else.

I'd like to add:  the reaction of all clerics is always to blame the secularisation of society.  Again: I think Lord Sacks's analysis of the situation is correct.  His proposed remedies are not.  They would lead us faster towards the Dark Ages than we are already going.

We need to restore trust, but that can only be done by improving person-to-person communication at all levels of society.  The greedy financial types and their kin are quite successful at isolating themselves from the public, hiding their real incomes, escaping responsibilities and evading tax.  People sense this unconsciously, but unfortunately react by blaming each other, immigrants, lax government, the European Commission, and a host of other targets that are not the real culprits (though some are involved).  They do this because they are not well enough educated, they spend too little time discussing and finding out facts.  Of course, the real people responsible for "Society losing the plot" don't want the public to be well-educated, they do not want income transparency, tax harmonisation across countries and so on. They are also quite astute at ensuring the governments are targeted:  the slightest scandal of misspending is blown out of proportion.  By comparison, how well is a top manager's salary plus bonuses justified?

Yes Lord Sacks, society is losing the plot, but not because we are more secular.  It's because so-called devout people are going greedy beyond any limit.  Why don't religious leaders clearly and simply ban greed?  Because they rely on donations from the greedy?

2013-08-16

US Republican Senator John McCain thinks the action of the military in Egypt is a "coup".  How does he qualify Morsi's changes to the Egyptian constitution?  My questions:  can a democratically elected government abolish democracy, and/or install a religious dictatorship?  What about the separation of church and state?  How fast do changes have to be to be called a "coup", and is creeping legal regression an acceptable road to a totalitarian, intolerant regime?  Who started the "coup" really?