Saturday, April 11, 2015

Not Worn Down. or Out.

Some company has bet its farm on some new fangled wearable device called the Watch. A bunch of other wearable computing/communication devices have done ok (highly portable mp3 music players to alleviate the burden of having to talk to people while exercising, wrist bands to measure speed and vital signs to olympic precision, to save the burden of having to look at a map and step on a scales. etc etc

None of this stuff is for me - maybe I am an outlier, outlandish, outspoken (sure), and out there, but I can't stand this stuff but not for a luddite reason -

ALthough I've always been slow to take up a tech (didn't have broadband at home or computers in the house til the kids needed it for school, didn't have a mobile phone til someone gave me one at work, didn't have a car for decades before needing to transport elderly people and do shopping etc - all driven by cost benefit analysis basically), this is not why I'm eschewing the old wearable stuff...

I've not ever been able to wear a watch, and find it hard to wear gloves - no idea why, but when uncles gave me watches as presents when I was a kid, I would run into doors, walls, catch them on aunties pointy noses, smash the glass, rip the strap in shreds, or drop them in a cup of really hot tea, to see if Douglas Adams would be right - who knows why? I just find this stuff intensely irritating.

If someone built something so tough it wouldn't break, I'd end up like Isidora Duncan, killed by being dragged behind a drone that accidentally got entangled with the fitbit it just delivered to my left paw.

One of our cool students built the nearest thing to an ideal wearable for me, a high-visibility cycling jacket that is decently made, well waterproof, light enough to wear on anything except a really hot day, and has a set of lights and sensors built in. Good on you, Andy Li, for visijax - I am betting he actually could have saved lives, but I still managed to break it (note to andy - the jacket is still fine, so it still gets used, just needs re-wiring - my fault entirely)....

I am not especially known as clumsy  - I can do fiddly things like thread a needle or hand solder electrical stuff without having to use a vice...I am obviously not averse to having tablets, smart phones, internet tv, blogs, twitter etc etc - I am not eve averse to doing some exercise (12 miles per day cycling, occasional long (100 mile) rides) and having some idea how to plan pace and fuel over a day etc

but I for one, am not going to be sporting one those new, extremely expensive, hopelessly hipster wannabe things on my wrist any day soon, no not even if Apple gave me one:)

Thursday, March 26, 2015

EU versus US cloud economy

was at interesting meeting yesterday where it was shown that the EU lags the US in business adoption of  cloud technology, and that this is harming growth/productivity of companies (I think I can believe this) - positive role model companies do exist, so it isn't just head-in-the-sand

A lot of the talk was about the fact that the network deployment in EU is NOT a barrier  (capacity/latency/price are all fine), but at the same time, some of the net is actually under-utilisaed.

That's a useful point, and indeed, one could claim that the fact that the entire warfare about Net Neutrality has been largely US based is evidence that the stakes for content and service providers versus network providers are much higher in north american than in Europe.

for my part, I reckon a large part of the problem is that most european countries rely on overseas companies to provide cloud technology (Amazon, Microsoft, etc) and it is really hard to do a large scale business transformation that cloud can achieve with a remote company (or a company you don't trust, own, or have the same language/culture as). So the answer seems pretty obvious - the fact that the UK has less of a problem in this space is consistent with this, in that we have more local cloud expertise in the UK (having provided some of the core tech here anyhow:)

some people there disputed this viewpoint, and claimed there was no problem having BT or Microsoft cloud-ify their EU-based business - that assertion was made with no concrete examples.

Monday, February 16, 2015

the me-oh-my tube revolution is coming and it will not be televised

decentralized cloud - you know it makes sense. So youtube/google make a lot out of the amount of material that is uploaded every day. However, note that the usual zipf law of popularity (the very very very very very very long tail, where the vast vast vast majority of cats-falling-off-bicycle-videos are only ever viewed by .5 people) means that this stuff stays on 1 server, and never gets replicated (pushed) to caches.

So why upload it? Its personal - only you and your mum ever look at it.
Perhaps you are an aspiring pop star and its your video - so still, why upload it ? you only need to be _indexed_. Its far more efficient if you serve it yourself and you get to count how many people look at it directly, and from where, and get 100% of any advertising revenue (If you chose to host adverts too).

its obvious.

dis-intermediate google now!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Privacy in the Past

Have been reading about the past some, recently. For example, the rather fine England Arise! by Juliet Barker, about the revolt by Peasants in late 14th century England, triggered by the last straw, yet antherpoll tax (lets not pause to reflect how the rediculous sanctions threatened against Greece if they renege on their debt, and revoke their austerity measures under their own democatically elected governement might by related in some way:)

What I am more interested in here is the notion, reported in some places, that the idea of personal privacy is somehow only a recent invention.

Its actually quite hard to find good evidence on this,  of course, but it is clear that in every day life, most people lived hand-in-glove with each other to the extent that routinely private activities (the privy and procreation) were likely not terribly private, from your kith and kin.

Note well, though, this is the nub -- "private" is a triadic adjective. WHat is private about you, with respect to whom. I doubt very much if medieval peasants would have appreciated strangers turning up to queue at the window of their toilet or marital bed to watch. There was a social context.

What is interesting in the account in the book is that a highly distributed, lightly (hardly) coordinated activity arose which could not have used letters to coordinate since many were barely literate, but also due to cost, let alone the Victorian Internet (telegraph) or the telephone or e-mail or Online Social Networks. So people rode around on horseback, or walked about a lot to tell others what was happening.

And yet the powers that be were practically caught napping.

i.e. no surveillance state.

I assume the folks running this uprising were not idiots (they nearly succeeded, after all) and realized that a moducum of secrecy was needed in planning resistince and events. So they had a pretty good clue, obviously that their discussions and communications were indeed private, at least against being overheard by adversaries.

As with all revisionism, apologists angling to support the encroachment of the surveillance state on civil society, use the claim that privacy was a brief-lived, recent invention associated with wealth and individualism, and they use this to justify, in the face of relatively small injury to open societies, massive revokation of the right to privacy of every day folk (of course, secrecy in government (and banking and so on) is retained - why? do they have anything more to hide, I wonder:)).

Fact is, privacy is as old as whispering.innocently

Addendum  - just dealing with yet another teenager - do you remember hiding stuff from your parents when you were a kid? Its normal. Its part of asserting your individual nature and becoming self sufficient. Growing up. SPying on your kids is bad for them and you. Spying on your citizens is same, oh governments...

Sunday, January 11, 2015

anonymous, boring, repetitive and dull

I've just read two very good (but quite similar books on Anonymous, one is We Are Anonymous by Parmy Olson, and the other is Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy by Gabriella Coleman.

While I like a shot of lulz as much as the next guy, and the righteous support of Wikieleaks, and even more, support of Arab Spring uprisings (esp. Tunisia) was a Good Thing, a huge amount of what these folks did is really rather dull and tedious. Indeed, reading the Enki of Loki (apologies to Neal Stephenson ) or any random religious tract of biblical proportions is really quite similar (and topiary slew glenbarry who slew kayla who was the daugther of Satan who was the son of SkuleMystress who lay with socketscientist and beget IIS and Apache vulernabilities daily etc etc)

Sheesh, if i wanted this sort of stuff I could just turn to the Gideon's Bible (cue Bungalow Bill)

Open Sauce

Recent moves in US and EU have meant that Science (especially publications) that is largely funded from the public purse, is being made openly available by requiring Scientists (now, no longer in an adventure with Pirates) to publish in Open Access journals and conferences - this is a jolly good thing, in my view. Indeed, the science (drugs, software, machines) itself should also be so available.

But what about other walks of life  like Comedy, or even Politics, Economics and Philosophy?
Surely most of this is developed at Universities, and so should be made freely available to the public in the same way? Indeed, I think it would be a tragedy if we don't have Open Access to Comedy and Rock and Roll as soon as possible.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Just finishing the excellent Hacker/Anonymous book by Gabriella Coleman. Its really a work of an anthropologist, studinying the weird new tribes in the cyber-jungle and their odd, odd, but it does make one wonder (especially bits about Arab Spring) how nuch of a "performance installation/artwork" this all is, how much truth, rather than a Margaret Mead type debacle...we shall see....(or probably not, given the nature of Anonymous....

Thursday, December 11, 2014

collaborated to death

I'm working on quite a few projects, and we use what used to be quaintly known as "productivity tools" - basically, we use (for example - non exhaustive list):

twitter/facebook/google groups & email lists and sms to coordinate stuff

shared calender tools

Git, Svn, Basecamp and a zillion other version controlling repositories

wikis, wordpress, for shared live journaling/awareness/coordination where > 140 char and less ephemeral, but not as versions as code, reports/papers

hotcrp, easychair, edas for conference management

webex, skype, younameit for video/voice realtime meetings

sharedlatex, office360, google docs for shared edits

This is a triumph of toolsets over sanity! I spend the first 7 minutes of any meeting trying to remember the use-context of the tools....arghhh!!!

death by computer supported collaborative computing!

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misery me, there is a floccipaucinihilipilification (*) of chronsynclastic infundibuli in these parts and I must therefore refer you to frank zappa instead, and go home