ewx: (penguin)
Ad-blocking in web browsers has been going on for years, but it’s generating more press lately because Apple have started doing it. (Possibly also it’s reached sufficient levels that it’s starting to hurt). I have very little sympathy for the organizations impacted by this for a number of reasons, but in particular:

  1. Online adverts represent a serious threat vector. Breaking into a obscure blog and using that to server malware only infects that blog’s readership; breaking into an ad server affects the readership of everything that uses that ad network. This isn't a hypothetical concern; here’s a recent example (edit: here’s another) (edit: another, with a bonus of some social engineering to get users to make themselves vulnerable). If I asked an ad network to indemnify me against any losses resulting from permitting them to access my computer, what sort of response do you think I might receive?

  2. Ad-blockers do indeed disrupt the business model of many websites, and this may yet be fatal for large numbers of them (or at least a contributing factor in their demise). But so what? The web has already thoroughly disrupted many existing business models[1], and is continuing to do so; if ad-blockers do kill a bunch of websites then really we’re just seeing another round of the same thing.

[1] although to my surprise I saw an apparently surviving video rental store on Saturday morning.
ewx: (Default)

It’s a shame that Dennis Ritchie and Steve Jobs died at around the same time. I don’t say this out of a belief that the news about the latter somehow eclipsed the former; indeed I’ve seen a number of mainstream obits and no shortage of blog and Usenet traffic about the DMR.

Rather, the reason is the claim that Jobs would have been nothing without DMR. )

In summary while DMR’s work has found its way into important roles in Apple’s products (among others), so has that of many other creators, and his contribution was probably not indispensable. This isn’t to underestimate the importance either of C as a portable language suitable for low level tasks; nor of Unix as a portable operating system and, in the long run more importantly, as an operating system interface supporting many implementations.

ewx: (Default)

What’s the going rate for a kiss-and-tell story? How does it compare with the cost of a superinjunction. i.e. would it be cheaper to pay off the women currently going to the press with stories about footballers and actors? One wonders how many public figures have already adopted this approach.

Obviously it’d only work for rich people.

Legally protecting newspapers’ ability to publish kiss-and-tell stories doesn’t seem especially worthwhile; the supposed public interest justification is ridiculous, confusing the term with “what the public are interested in.” It’s quite obvious that in such cases the real motivation was circulation.

Nor, of course, does protecting the ability of the rich to maintain a profitable but inaccurate public reputation seem like a good use of the law. I do have more sympathy for their families who would presumably quite like to stay out of the press (and there are plenty of press abuses of privacy which could well do with being stamped out).

Not all SIJs exclusively cover kiss-and-tell stories. One from December 2008 started with stolen emails (Goldsmith & Anor v BCD, see para 27) - whatever their content, that feels much more reasonable than prohibiting someone from relating their own personal experiences, no matter how sordid. Another apparently includes an example of someone possibly causing their ex-mistress to lose their job, which may have a more credible public interest justification in favour of publication.

There’s a lot to be said for the view that the Internet makes superinjunctions somwhat pointless. The claims published recently on Twitter are of course unsourced and unverifiable gossip, but:

  • Newspapers are studiously avoiding repeating all but one of them. Indeed it’s obvious that the false claim was included just to give them some convenient search terms they could mention. The loud denial it provoked may have been merely icing on the cake l-)
  • The Telegraph reports that “lawyers representing two of the celebrities said they did not intend to try to sue the anonymous Twitter user who broke the terms of the orders, admitting that the individual would be difficult to trace.” If the rumours were inaccurate, or for that matter if they had any sense, they’d have just shrugged their shoulders and said “nothing to do with us.”
  • …and one of them is suing. Exactly the same argument applies.
ewx: (Default)

This may be news, but I don’t think it’s front-page news. “Notorious serial killer to be released” would be front-page news, “Notorious serial killer to stay in jail” is simply not that unusual.

Times Two

May. 25th, 2010 08:09 pm
ewx: (Default)

As well as the £1/day and £2/wk online subscription charges, weekly subscriptions to the print Times will include online access. (As before, see their FAQ.) This is pretty close to the approach used by The Economist, which I subscribe to.

The first difference (from my own parochial point of view), though, is that I subscribe to the Economist anyway. But the last time I bought any other print newspaper was for the DVD attached to it, I didn’t spend a great deal of time reading it. (More than 0.) I can’t even remember the time before that.

The Economist also makes some articles available for free online (without even having to jump through registration hoops). I can’t see any mention that The Times are likely to do that. So there’s a second difference.

I do fairly regularly read the Times online. But I also read the BBC, Guardian and Telegraph to about the same extent, and while those are still free (at point of use), I don’t think the Times adds enough that I’d pay for it.

Furthermore: one of the main uses is something to link to in LJ or IRC, to trigger a discussion about something. It’s rare though that the Times is the only place which covers an issue, and if I’m not in the habit of regularly reading it then it’s not likely that I’ll see the counterexamples. And unless all (or at least most) of my readers also subscribe, or are willing to pay for short-term access, it’s pretty useless as as jumping-off point for a discussion. Judging by the poll results, that precondition isn’t likely to be met.

Put another way, for me to think the Times is £2/wk better than the alternatives, a lot of other people have to think it’s worth paying for too.

ewx: (Default)

A few people have expressed the objection to PR that it might lead to BNP MPs (I think twelve is the figure currently being bandied around). Rather than repeat my responses to that each time someone says it:

  1. Some of the BNP votes may be protest votes. The BNP vote might very well turn out to be less in a situation where they might actually get seats.
  2. FPTP doesn’t actually possess some magical anti-BNP property. It just happens not to give them any MPs because of the way their support is currently spread. That situation isn’t guaranteed to persist.
  3. Choosing an electoral system to disadvantage a specific party is fundamentally dishonest. There are lots of better reasons people say they like FPTP, even if they aren’t persuasive to me. (I know this is the Internet and so everyone who disagrees is assumed to be arguing in bad faith, but let’s ignore that for a moment.)
  4. A handful of ineffectual extremist MPs publicly making idiots of themselves is a reasonable price for a fair voting system (whatever you think a fair voting system looks like). I think that as well as being predisposed to ineffectiveness, the other parties would tend to cooperate to deny them any real power (because supporting them would be electoral poison).

Arguably we already have some extremists (of various kinds) in Parliament already, you just don’t find out they’re an extremist until they make a politically unwise outburst.

Is this academic, since the most we’ll get is a referendum on AV (which is electoral reform but isn’t PR)? Maybe, but I think that even a lost referendum would keep the electoral reform debate open in the medium term, so (if extremist support remains near current levels) the point will remain relevant.

I need a politics userpic.

ewx: (marvin)

So to get started all you have to do is correctly enter a NINETY-FIVE CHARACTER URL…

(That's http://www.connectingforhealth.nhs.uk/systemsandservices/scr/staff/aboutscr/comms/pip/noscr.pdf for anyone who’d like to save themselves the trouble. Obviously you should check I’m giving you the right URL though.)

ewx: (Default)

I don't think they've thought this through:

Just to emphasize the point, imagine you're looking for “English”:

ewx: (Default)

This article, about a women demonstrating that biometrics can be faked (although she got caught in the end), reminded me of this one, which ought to be trotted out any time anyone suggests using fingerprints to protect anything even slightly valuable.

(I read that fingerprints don't match between identical twins, so the other obvious objection to the immigration control system using fingerprints might not stand.)

ewx: (edna)

If the worst should happen, and ITV were dismantled or taken over by an overseas company with less of an obligation to create British programmes, it would leave a huge hole. That really is thinking the unthinkable.

Would it? Frankly I'm not sure I'd notice. The last thing I watched on ITV was Law And Order UK which they stopped showing half way through the series without any announcement as to when or whether the rest will appear. (You might think it would be a better fit on C5 anyway given that's where the US versions show.) I can't remember what would have been the previous thing, and I mostly watch C5 and (to a lesser extent) the BBC.

It would of course help if they didn't, apparently uniquely among TV stations, try to stop you finding out what they were showing.

ewx: (ceilingcat)

So Barack Obama may or may not have allusively compared her to a pig in lipstick, depending whether you ask Democrats or Republicans and Telegraph hacks. I'm having trouble finding a transcript, and in a triumph of journalistic integrity the BBC weren't showing the context last night, so I can't easily say which side is talking rot. Although western politicians do usually make their attacks on opponents a bit more sophtiscated than mere abuse (consider how unusual Major's famous “bastards” remark was).

Not so long ago however, and providing the basis for the claim of a slur, Sarah Palin compared herself to a pit bull terrier in lipstick (an equally bizarre image if taken literally). But frankly I think Obama's supposed comparison is the more flattering one; pit bulls have a reputation for savaging small children, and while pigs can certainly be dangerous they're not what springs to mind when you talk about dangerous animals. So what's the fuss about? l-)

[Poll #1257776]


Sep. 2nd, 2008 01:24 pm
ewx: (Default)

Does anyone agree with Helen Mirren? Or Anne Widdecombe (do the Conservatives reject the label “the party of law and order” now then?)

What's she asking for? A cup of tea?

...well, why not? Hasn't she heard the REM song?

ewx: (Default)

Maybe it's just me but I think I'd much rather have sculptures than paintings, and even if you don't share my taste, at £1.5M per statue we could have over 60 solid gold Kate Mosses scattered around the country for the £100M required for two paintings.

You might vary the model a bit: I think a larger-than-life solid gold statue of Sir John Major would be a marvelous thing - both as a satire on his grey reputation and a tangible acknowledgment of his bit-part in this country's recent slew of Olympic gold medals.

Who would do you nominate for golden immortality?

Apparently gold costs around £14,000/kilo so the BBC's quoted value of £1.5M for a 50kg statue suggests that the sculptor's time is worth Kate Moss's weight in gold.

ewx: (marvin)

I think the spread of online video is one of the worst things to happen to the web for some time.

There's certainly some good stuff out there, and spending the occasional hour poking around Youtube can be amusing, and there are things that just don't make sense in any other medium; but an awful lot of content seems to have migrated into video where previously the same material would have been online in text form - you don't get the notes of someone's presentation online, you just get the video.

To my mind the three biggest disadvantages of video over an article, or a transcript, or even just a decent set of slides, are:

  • They dictate pacing. You can read at any pace you like, with a video you're stuck with the pacing its creator chose, and at least for me inevitably limited to a rather slower pace than I can read at. This isn't just about normal reading speed, you can skim text in a way that's rather difficult with a video.
  • They have sound. A nuisance in a shared environment or if you wanted to do something else with your ears (listen to background music or for a knock at the door, for instance).
  • Interruption is costly. If something interrupts reading text you can 'passively' stop, and when you return to it you can just scan back up a bit for enough context to get going again. If something interrupts watching a video you have to actively find the pause button, and if you wanted to pick up context when returning to it you have to fiddle with the rewind controls (which might well be a not-big-enough slider, but that's an implementation detail).

You can't print them out either, but I almost never print anything out to read it, so that one's pretty much moot from my point of view.

ewx: (dragon)
Can we please declare a moratorium on the phrase “do you see what I did there”? Even when used ironically.
ewx: (Default)

The content creation business is actually tremendous. Especially when you readers click on the ads surrounding this story. Can you see them?

Not without making an effort, no; my brain appears to be really good at filtering out the most popular styles of web advertizing.

Unless, that is, you count the whole article as an advert: Mark Shuttleworth appears to be almost as good as Apple at getting free publicity out of journalists.

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