Monthly Archives: February 2006

The Internet for Free Speech in China

Sometimes the Internet can still be a force for free speech:

Li Datong, shown outside the China Youth Daily, challenged a plan to dock reporters’ pay if government officials took issue with their stories. The speed and power of the Internet helped launch a campaign that ultimately compelled a government retreat from the plan.

The Click That Broke a Government By Philip P. Pan Washington Post Foreign Service Sunday, February 19, 2006; Page A01

Apparently sometimes even the People’s Republic of China has to bow to public opinion, and the Internet can be used to mobilize that opinion.


What Not To Send on Valentine’s Day

A friend of mine forwarded me a tearjerker of a chain letter about a little girl who goes to school and talks about her daddy who’s in heaven because he died at 9/11. I was thinking it’s a nice thought, so I won’t complain, even if it is a chain letter, until I looked at the end:

If you don’t send it to anyone, it means you’re
in a hurry and that you’ve forgotten your friends.

That’s got to win a prize as the most emotionally extortionate chain letter ever. Many real people died at 9/11; whoever dishonored their memory by writing this tidbit of melodrama should be ashamed.

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Elevator Convergence

As I was leaving the Folk Alliance at the downtown Austin Hilton yesterday midnight (went to see a friend of mine perform), a couple got on the elevator and punched the wrong floor.

“And it doesn’t have an undo button!” she said, punching the correct floor.

“You’re right,” I said.

“That interface hasn’t been redesigned in a hundred years!” she said.

“Telephones, too!” he said, as they got off at their floor.

How do we live like this?

Soon, younger people will demand these interfaces change. And that they all be on the net. Interesting new security problems and risk management there, when anyone can query the most recent elevator stats from their cell phone to see which bank has the fewest riders and go there.


Back to the Future In Egypt

Well, it turns out the first newspaper to republish the Danish cartoons was in… Egypt on 17 October 2005, four months ago. Yet nobody is burning Egyptian flags nor threatening the editors of that paper.

It looks like somebody decided months after the initial publication to promote this whole cartoon row for purposes not terribly holy.

The things you find out on the Internet that aren’t being reported in the mainstream media.


The other 20% have fouled the nest

Interesting article here about difficulties of switching end users from Windows to Linux:

Six months later," 80% of users have and had no problem with OpenOffice," Holt said.

Unfortunately, the other 20% have fouled the nest. One had some minor issues with a table inserted into a document and others reported number of everyday formatting issues. This vocal minority has rebelled against OpenOffice.

The OpenOffice migration is floundering, as, once again, some employees have returned to using MS Word.

Microsoft’s mindshare with some employees has been harder to overcome than the problems with the table and formatting. Holt now knows that the success of an OpenOffice migration can depend on early identification and deprogramming of employees who are fiercely loyal to MS Office. "Just one person like this may upset the whole project," he said.

Two ways Microsoft sabotages Linux desktop adoption, By Jan Stafford, 09 Feb 2006,

The article has a number of specific tidbits about problems encountered, and some speculations about how many of these problems are orchestrated by Microsoft, either directly through impeding OEMs from supplying anything else, or indirectly by convincing users that only Microsoft is good enough. That latter reminds me of the old days, when nobody ever went wrong by buying IBM.

And it reminds me of something else I just read.

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iPod v. Broadcast Flag, or Innovation v. Government Mandates

While the Senate Commerce Committee was considering the broadcast flag proposed by the Motion Picture Association of America, and the audio flag proposed by the Recording Industry of America, Sen. John Sununu, R. NH remarked:
“The suggestion is that if we don’t do this, it will stifle creativity. Well…we have now an unprecedented wave of creativity and product and content development…new business models, and new methodologies for distributing this content. The history of government mandates is that it always restricts innovation…why would we think that this one special time, we’re going to impose a statutory government mandate on technology, and it will actually encourage innovation?”

History and Senator Stevens’ iPod, Danny O’Brien, January 25, 2006, EFF Deeplinks

The ARPANET was started by government funding innovation; GOSIP (requirement for computers sold to the U.S. government to have the ISO/OSI protocols) was government mandating technology. The history of technology has numerous other examples. What sometimes frightens me is that so few of the legislators at the national or local levels, in the U.S. or other countries, seem to know this history or the simple lesson from it that Sen. Sununu so pithily describes.

But it took an older Senator to save the day. Continue reading

Internet BYTE8406 Syndrome

There’s an old jargon term called BYTE8406 syndrome, which has as one definition:
The tendency for oppression to waste resources. Derives from the observation that erasing a banned public file does not destroy the information, but merely creates an uncountable number of private copies. It was first diagnosed in September 1984, when the BYTE8406 forum was removed from the IBMPC Conference.
We’re seeing a worldwide example of this at the moment, with various Muslim protesters and even the cartoonists who drew them attempting to suppress publication of some cartoons that appeared in Jyllands-Posten, a newspaper in Jutland in Denmark.

One result has been copies of the cartoons have already appeared in other newspapers in multiple countries, plus a compendium of representations of Mohammed across the ages. On the Internet, the uncountable number of additional copies aren’t just private: many of them are public. Continue reading

What hath God wrought?

Telegram, b. 24 May 1844, d. 27 January 2006, R.I.P.:
Effective January 27, 2006, Western Union will discontinue all Telegram and Commercial Messaging services. We regret any inconvenience this may cause you, and we thank you for your loyal patronage.

Western Union Telegram, 27 January 2006

A little less than 162 years before, Samuel FB Morse sent the first telegram, saying:
What hath God wrought?
It took some years for telegrams to become commercially available, and it’s possible there is some company still sending telegrams today, but more than a century and a half is a pretty long run for a technology. Continue reading

Restoration Blockbusters

Sometimes history repeats itself in some detail:
The expense of mounting ever more elaborate scenic productions drove the two competing theatre companies into a dangerous spiral of huge expenditure and correspondingly huge losses or profits. A fiasco such as Dryden’s Albion and Albanius would involve a company in serious debt, while blockbusters like Thomas Shadwell’s Psyche or Dryden’s King Arthur would put it comfortably in the black for a long time.

Restoration Spectacular, Wikipedia, last modified 17:31, 3 February 2006.

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Future Financial Firms

Interesting article (noted in Specialty Insurance Blog) about financial firms of the future. It says such firms must focus on core competencies and be flexible about new developments while being driven by customer relations. It emphasises technology to help with this:

New technology continues to deliver more capability at lower cost. Improvements in compression technology, the spread of consumer broadband and the impending shift to Internet Protocol (IP) communications networks will give the financial services industry the infrastructure it needs to deliver on the promise of e-finance. Institutions that do not offer an efficient multi-channel distribution strategy will not be competitive. In an environment of decreasing customer loyalty and increasing customer sophistication, technology is both problem and solution. Electronic distribution will continue to enable easier price comparisons and changes of financial provider. But technologies for enhancing CRM and improving customer experience will assume much greater importance as financial services firms seek to build new customer relationships in fast-changing mass-market segments such as pension products.

Risk management has implications for technology strategy, too. The use of predictive models will continue to expand fast throughout the financial services industry over the coming years, from refining insurers’ estimates of losses, to reducing card issuers’ acceptance of risky customers and honing the trading strategies of investment banks and hedge funds.

The industry response: Upgrading technology to track risk exposure accurately and swiftly across the whole firm will be crucial. Allocating capital to maximise returns relative to risks, real-time knowledge of the firm’s total risk exposure, and an effective, transparent dialogue with regulators, rating agencies and the capital markets will represent the minimum standards for the well-governed financial services firm.

Financial services firms of the future will be characterised by a pervasive customer-centric culture by Marie O’Connor,, 2 February 2006.

Hm, firms that heavily dependent on the Internet will need to be concerned about the risks of Internet security and performance.

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