Saturday, 26 April 2008

"Getting It" Followup

Really, the article I wrote on Friday is open to far more analysis than I gave it. When Dad was a boy, crystal sets were the acme of technology. By the time he passed on, shooting the schematic for an entire radio station around the world in under three seconds was commonplace.

We are more connected than anyone else has ever been, outside of the Omnipotent God. We have new words to, for this brave new world. You will be familiar with the following:

networked, personal computer, jetlagged, Mars Rover, PDA, mobile phone, laptop, MP3.

None of those words existed or meant what they now mean, fifty years ago.

For the Internet-and-SMS-savvy, you would know LOL and THX and AFK and a whole slew of acronyms and shortcuts. And any Second Lifers would understand what the words rezzed, poofer, griefer, prims, and avatar mean.

When Gutenberg created the printing press, he not only produced a way for the Bible to be placed in the hands of the masses, he also produced the end of the Englyshe Language as it was known, because now language as free to evolve with each new book authored and published. The lettered upper crust sniffed disdainfully that it was the end of language as we know it - but as we know, the language has evolved to fit our needs and unlike our predecessors, we no longer need to cling to archaic uses of language and instead embrace the new language which is emerging.

In those ancestors' day, reading some books was something you only did secretly and at night for fear of being discovered absorbing this heathenish uneducated patois. Some books could get you executed, and indeed some people were executed for authoring or owning such books. It's an attitude that should have stayed in the Middle Ages - but (sadly) didn't.

Language is always changing to reflect what is happening in our lives. It would be a poor tool for us if it wasn't reactive and responsive. Our habits and daily routines must react and respond to our technology. We would be remiss not to adapt to our environment.

And if the language is changing, we should adjust our lives around this fact. Ask our educators to embrace and disseminate rather than condemn and isolate.

Can you remember ever having to use Shakespearean English or Chaucerian English? Yes it's good to learn about those forms of English but now we just don't have a use for them.

Can you remember what it was like before you had a PC with an always-on Internet connection? You went to bed early or watched TV or read or studied, but now you can get your reading and news and movies and amusement online and does that mean you should grieve that it's the "end of The Bold & The Beautiful" as we know it or perhaps reach out and embrace that we can now watch it online?

And for people like my father whose lives spanned a whole gamut of inventions, he can remember when there was no TV and you read books secretly under your covers with a candle for fear of being discovered by Mother...

Friday, 25 April 2008

Teh Caek Is A Lie!

Teh Caek Is A Lie!


Our petrol prices have surged. Many people are now having to curtail their movements because they can't afford it. We're paying more and more to move less and less for shorter and shorter distances...

In our Eastern States, rice crops are failing due to drought, which is most likely caused by the increase in greenhouse gas emissions. The price of living in Asia is going up because of it.

This means that a range of goods produced in Asia, many of them cars that consume the expensive petrol, will increase in price. The flow-on effects will carry to other world economies which depend on those Asian goods being at a lower price point, so the cost of European cars will increase.

And we all know that the biggest buyers of European luxury cars are the Arab people - with whom the price hike started in the first place.

Ah the economy is a wonderful self-levelling thing...

Do You "Get" It?

If my father were still alive today, he would have an opinion on this article that goes something like "and the problem with this is?"

Dad was born into a very simple world where news was what was swapped around the town fountain. My grandparents, on coming to visit my mother and their son-in-law in Vienna, made the warding sign of the cross when Dad flipped a switch and the electric light came on. They were to make that sign again several times as he turned on the radio, and as they learned to flush a toilet for the first time. There were even automobiles in the streets!

When my father passed away a few years ago he'd been a longtime (more than five years) user of a PC and the Internet and had friends he would email and IM all over the world, and he'd had several mobile phones and his eye on one of "them newfangled GPS things."

My generation, right on the edge of the Baby Boomer generation, has seen more things change in a year than many generations saw in their whole lives. So do we prove to be better than my father's generation at "getting it?"

Sadly, it seems that the answer is "no..."

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

The Vegemite Culture

Watched Good News Week on Monday night and episode 9 just killed me. If you watch that, scroll forward to the last fifth of the show, the segment where the Vegemite Buttocks Japanese (this makes heaps more sense if you just look at the video, trust me) is happening.

In particular watch the two American guests' faces as the entire audience puts up a pretty much perfect rendition of the Vegemite jingle. It's not what their faces are showing but what they're struggling to conceal that makes this probably one of the most significant indications of our culture having come of age.

I doubt there is one other country in the world where you can sit a random audience down, prime them with the first line of a jingle that was first coined, what? - 40 or more years ago? - and have them ALL remember the words.

More than kangaroos, more than Uluru, more than opera houses and famous musicians, that moment showed that we do have a culture, and that culture thrives best in yeast...

What Kind Of WiFi Are You?

On a recent afternoon I got to have a bit of a revelation.

Turns out I'm the sneaky kind of WiFi. The kind that has the SSID turned on saying "come and get me!" - and then some kind of third party security after the access point. In my case, a remote access server that need authentication and is on a two network addresses, one for the WiFi one for the LAN. It's a dead simple thing that prevents anyone casually sniffing around the machines at home, and all runs on one PC along with a heap of other functions so the only thing it cost me was a second network card.

And I'm in a minority, at least in Perth anyway.

We drove home from an afternoon out, down the freeway, through Perth, and then snuck into South Perth/Como. I had my laptop with me and thought a quick snoop of the ether would be appropriate. (I still haven't had time to install netstumbler on it so it was just the Windows wireless networking, but that was enough for my rough survey.)

Of the CBD as we flashed past at freeway speed, about 30 signals popped up on the WiFi (without any external antenna or anything) and of those, five appeared to be deliberately left open (metromesh, cafe access points, etc) and only about seven of the remainder were secured.

So about 70% of businesses near the freeway are operating in fully open mode, unless, like me, they have a sneaky routing box behind the access point. I didn't bother to actually log onto each one as I literally had two minutes to take note of the number of acess points as we zipped past, no time to find out if there were open LANs behind the access points.

But it shows that something seems to be not getting through, a lot of basic security is being overlooked.

About three years ago, a WiFi survey I did along St Georges/Adelaide Tce revealed about 50 access points, and that number is bound to have increased by now. If numbers have doubled in three years as they are likely to have, then that means there would be about 60 - 70 open access points on networks just along one main street of the CBD.

What's even more scary is that on the drive through the residential Como - Bentley - Parkwood areas, I noticed about another 60 access points, the majority of which appear to be privately operated home systems - and 90% of those are secured.

That means that businesses in Perth are far less secure than people at home. A bonanza for black hat hackers, definitely. I'm hoping a few businesses or their IT managers read this and then contact me to lock down access, because that was quite frankly an eye-opener for me.

Monday, 21 April 2008

LOLCAT Format?

Funniest tee shirt slogan ever, was a very exclusive design (i.e. I only had one made for myself) but now I've put it on my Cafepress shop site. Geeks will get it right away, everyone else it will take a few seconds for the penny to drop.

I like the site, I think I might collect a few more bits and put other things online. It's actually a good idea, from what I've seen so far.

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Modelling Random Falling Events


That is all.

Bet you thought this was going to be some dry chaos physics post dincha?

Using IT or losing IT.

Working freelance again is exhilarating. Jump into a job, say hi to the people, fix their problem, and never see those people again for a few months. Ideal way to have it actually.

One thing that is less than ideal is one company phoning to book me while I'm working at another's job, or finding two emails in my inbox for the same timeslot. That involves choosing, acrimony on the part of the person whose job I had to decline, and all sorts of play nice required to soothe things.

So recently and rather cheekily I made a booking sheet on Google Pages that refers the potential hirer to one Google calendar where I am putting all the things that chew into my work day, so: illness, other appointments, days I want off, etc.

Most of the companies that provide me with work have been enthusiastic. After all, they now have a clear preview of where I am and at what times, and they don't need to email or phone to find out if I'm available. So cheek has paid off, and the only thing that amazes me is that these companies haven't used Google's ubiquity and shareability themselves to form a resource scheduling system where the resources can book themselves out.

Strangest thing has been one reaction I've gotten. One contract manager has expressed that they don't think they should need to check a booking sheet every time they want a job done. I guess they are out of luck then, because with itinerant IT resources being scarce on the ground as we currently are, they've just missed out on using the very stuff they're supporting to make it easier to support it...

I guess they think I should just maintain myself at standby readiness for two - three weeks at a time so they can send me on the one job they have in that time of re-installing a printer driver or whatever.

Actually, what I reckon I should work on is a bidding system for my time so that I get more well paid hours and less of the almost "love job" hours. (Not that I'd abandon either just for the money, mind you, I like the freelance/contract work too much - but it would be nice to earn a bit more doing it... %)

Thursday, 17 April 2008

It never rains

. . . but it pours.

I've noticed that with a certain IT company I contract to from time to time, that every second job has taken place in rainy or cold weather. But it's been interesting work so far so I'm prepared to put up with the occasional drenching.

I did notice though that my consultants are all in a shark feeding frenzy, they must be short of resources out here in the West. It's already led to several attempted double bookings, and I've had to start a Google calendar for the consultants to refer to before they phone and try and book me as I'm sitting in another client's office...

Makes me wonder why they can't institute something that simple amongst themselves internally. Because in the last seven jobs I've had, this has happened six times. You'd think they'd learn. But maybe there's something about a dispersed and horizontalised organisation that just makes that kind of organisation impossible.

Anyway - I shouldn't complain because it makes my work days "interesting" in all senses of the word including the Ancient Chinese Curse sense, and of course it's good to keep my hand in at the general IT support and engineering areas.

And it's getting me out of the house and doing things, which can't be a bad thing. I've dealt with some of the biggest businesses in Perth thanks to this company, also a good thing, and I've managed to have more long blacks in the CBD and Freo in the last month than I think I have in almost a year. And that's a definite Good Thing.

Saturday, 12 April 2008

... or learn to breathe through yer ears sonny!

Pages surrounding this NSFW. ZOMG, nuff said....

Teh War On Spamz, Escalated to Level Two Alert...

Just admirable, that the people who run botnets and trojans are now getting hacked back. This is the next step in what will end up in another elevating arms race.

I wonder if the big virus protection companies companies will now rush out a signature and fix for Joel's brilliant counterhack... %)

Country Folk Wisdom

Fences need to be horse high, pig tight and bull strong.

Life is not about how fast you run, or how high you climb, but how well you bounce.

Keep skunks and lawyers at a distance.

Life is simpler when you plow around the stumps.

A bumble bee is faster than a John Deere tractor.

The trouble with a milk cow is that she won't stay milked.

Don't skinny dip with snapping turtles.

Words that soak into your ears are whispered, not yelled.

Meanness doesn't happen overnight.

Never lay an angry hand on a kid or an animal. It just ain't helpful.

Teachers, Moms and hoot owls sleep with one eye open.

Forgive your enemies. It messes with their heads.

Don't sell your mule to buy a plow.

Two can live as cheap as one, if one don't eat.

Don't corner something meaner than you.

It don't take a very big person to carry a grudge.

Don't go huntin' with a fellow named Chug-A-Lug.

Every path has some puddles.

Don't wrestle with pigs: You'll get all muddy and the pigs will love it.

Saturday, 5 April 2008

When Is A Credit Card Not Like A Kitten?

I just received one of those pieces of advertising that seems kind of clever when you first read it - but then... No... Fail...

"If kittens make people happy by reducing stress," it says,
--------------- "why can't a
--------------- credit card?"

... is the message on the envelope I just got urging me to feed the credit cycle. And when you look at the nice picture of kittens, just for a moment, you think "Awww geee that is so cute!"

Unfortunately that message sends you to too many other places if you think about it...

Firstly there's those kittens. Probably bought on a credit card and now costing money to feed and care for, veterinary expenses, the cute basket they'll outgrow in a few months meaning some more outlay of credit. Remember, credit is money you don't have right now but promise to repay along with extra money you can't afford but which is known as "interest."

Oh yeah. And kittens are made out of fur and flesh, bones and blood. Credit cards are made out of plastic. Bank managers understand plastic, but unfortunately the only thing they know about the other stuff is that it's their job to wring one of the other items out of stones...

Which makes you think of that rock and the hard place in between which you'll find yourself.

So while on the surface this is a very cute and appealing ad campaign, - well - I've decided to decline their offer.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

The Anonymous Achilles Heel Of The 'Net

People value anonymity on the Internet so highly, you begin to wonder why...

A quote from this week's WXP News sort of focuses and highlights this odd behaviour: Will New Laws and Technologies Destroy the Anonymity of the Internet?The real or perceived anonymity of online communications is a big attraction for many people - and not just those who are up to no good. For many folks, the 'Net has long served as a place where they can interact with others without dealing with issues such as race, height, weight, or physical attractiveness. Or, as famous New Yorker cartoon by Peter Steiner, published way back in 1993, put it: "On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog."

All through mankind's history, identity has been one of the keys to our development. By clinging together in a pack, we improved our survival chances. Being in a pack, we soon realised that the others in the pack were not grey and faceless but instead had specific skills and attributes. In trying to define that difference we developed our thinking and our language.

Whenever one human or group of humans wants to do something terrible to another human or group of humans the first thing they do is depersonalise that person or group, i.e. take away their identity and replace it with anonymity.

For myself - personally - I can't wait for the moment when the Internet is no longer anonymous and faceless. I'd love to be able to know that the person who's sending me half to 3/4 of the spam in my In Folder has a real face and I can send the police around to his place and have that face arrested. And wouldn't it be nice to check on the website that's about to charge you $250 to join a Russian Brides Club and see that it's run by some 12 year old boy who used to masquerade as a Russian noblewoman before the Internet became transparent?

Anonymity, my ass.