Writings on technology and society from Wellington, New Zealand

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Volcanos and Earthquakes!

Today on Radio New Zealand National I talked about volcanos and earthquakes and what you can find out about them on the Internet. The New Zealand web site GeoNet tells you all about volcanic and seismic activity. Read on for my notes and the links at the end.

posted by colin at 11:50 am  

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Fibre is good for you

I’ve been saying that for a while, of course. But now the New Zealand Institute is saying so as well. According to the Institute’s latest publication, Defining a broadband aspiration, New Zealand stands to gain $2.7-$4.4 billion dollar per year if decent broadband is implemented across the country. To quote: There is a significant cost to waiting. The longer New Zealand waits, the more economic value it will forego and so New Zealand should apporach the investment in fibre with urgency.


posted by colin at 9:53 pm  

Monday, September 24, 2007

Trusted Wikipedia

Apparently 7% of Internet users visit Wikipedia every day. That’s a staggering statistic. So the reports of people editing their own entries or those of their enemies haven’t stopped many many people from using it as a source of information on just about everything.

Even so, the revelations have shaken some people’s confidence, and given the commercial encyclopedia sellers a stick to beat Wikipedia up with. The Wikipedians have come up with a way to improve the trustworthiness of the encyclopedia without losing the egalitarian ethos which makes it so popular. The idea revolves around a board or committee which flags specific articles as “high quality” – a sort of good Wiki seal of approval – and some software which predicts the quality of someone edits to an article on the basis of other edits by that person.

Wikipedia is such a fantastic idea. It’s great to see a wiki approach to solving its problems. Read all about it here.

posted by colin at 5:55 pm  

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Share the Joy

Have you ever wondered what it would feel like to win a great victory against a giant company? Especially if you were a software developer and you were up against the finest lawyers your opponents could afford? Listen to Jeremy Allison and the others in an amazing Groklaw interview taken just after the European court decided to force Microsoft to open up Windows to competition. If you have 40 minutes or so – or even if you don’t – it’s really worth spending the time listening to them talking about how they felt to win. Jeremy’s descriptions of the legal robes are a hoot as well.

posted by colin at 7:31 am  

Friday, September 21, 2007

She has a name

Qian Xun Xue has had her mother murdered and been abandoned by her father in a foreign country. My heart goes out to her, and to her grandparents as they arrange to come here from China to take her home. Why do I think that? Because she’s a human being who doesn’t deserve the terrible way she’s been treated.

That’s right. She’s a person – and people have names. That’s how we know each other. Hers is Qian Xun Xue. If you can’t manage that, saying Chee-ahn is pretty close. Recognisable, at least, and it shows you think she’s a person with a name. Not a vegetable, as many of our media have been calling her ever since her plight hit the headlines.

I’ve heard TV1 and TV3 (which is still doing it tonight) call her “Pumpkin”. The Dominion Post called her that in screaming headlines today. The Press was doing so as well. Not only is this not OK, it’s insulting and casts her as, at best, some kind of doll, a prop for a news story. She’s not a toy – Qian is a person like you and me and just as deserving of a name.

I know when she first was reported as abandoned to the Australian Police they didn’t know her name. If they needed to give her a name, why couldn’t they have given a human one like Jane Doe as the Americans do for unidentified girls and women? Is it somehow OK to call her a vegetable because (let’s whisper it) she’s Chinese?

posted by colin at 6:44 pm  

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Story of SCO

Today on Radio New Zealand National I talked about a company called SCO and its failed attempt to charge people to use someone else’s work, given freely to the community. SCO tried to assert ownership over Linux and charge people to use it. It’s finally got its just desserts.

My speaking notes are below the fold with the usual links at the end.

posted by colin at 11:50 am  

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Ding! Dong! The witch is dead!

Today’s news is that SCO has filed for bankruptcy. This is entirely deserved as I have blogged before. The alternative for SCO would have been to face a trial next week which would only have decided how much it owed the companies against which it has pursued abusive lawsuits. But SCO can’t afford that, not after its claims to ownership to Linux have been judged to be baseless.

Remember, SCO’s legal action is the thing which has been held up as the risk over using Linux over the last few years. SCO has never produced a shred of evidence that Linux was copied from Unix, and now it has been found not to own Unix anyway the whole thing is moot.

This outcome gives the lie to those companies who have used the litigation as a bogeyman to say that people shouldn’t use Linux. But the main point is that SCO has been arguing that it owned something it doesn’t and has been threatening people on that basis. And it’s been called to account for that.

Companies and government agencies no longer need to be afraid to admit they use Linux. That’s the real benefit – the scary witch is indeed dead.

posted by colin at 11:05 pm  

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The backlash against the Internet

Today on Radio New Zealand National I talked about the way the Internet promotes amateurism, and whether this is a bad thing or a good thing. Capsule summary: everybody is an amateur at first; every profession grew out of people innovating and trying things. The Internet makes this happen faster. My notes are below with some links at the bottom. (more…)

posted by colin at 11:45 am  

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Saturday is Software Freedom Day

Updated 13 September: Locations of some of the activities.

SFD is being held this Saturday around the world – which of course means in New Zealand first – and all most of us will see of it is bunch of friendly people pressing CDs full of free software into our hands if we go to city centres and some shopping malls. But it’s about more than that.


posted by colin at 7:22 am  

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Building your own website

Today on Kathryn Ryan’s programme on Radio New Zealand National I talked about building your own website. There are a vast number of websites in the world – it can’t be that hard or no-one would have one! Making one can be as easy or as hard as you want it to be. Below the fold are my speaking notes and some useful links.

posted by colin at 11:59 am  
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