Writings on technology and society from Wellington, New Zealand

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Cult of the Mac

Today on Radio New Zealand National I talked about the Cult of the Mac – a slightly flippant look at the way Apple’s Macintosh computer is winning more and more converts around the world.

Macintosh computers have gone from being a marginal choice from an esoteric company that was about to go under, to the automatic choice of a high proportion of people who just love using computers. Macs have a reputation for being easier to use and more secure, and there’s little doubt they are better-looking than their competition.

Did I conclude that Mac worship is a cult? Read on. As always, there are links at the end.


posted by colin at 10:50 am  

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Govt goes blog

This hardly the first time government people have dabbled their toes in blogging, but it’s well worth looking at.

Over at, the government’s Digital Strategy team has put up a blog to discuss New Zealand’s digital strategy. The Digital Strategy is what drives the government’s overall approach to digital policy, and it led among other things to last year’s regulation of Telecom. Take a look at the blog and think about writing them a comment.

Anyway, the Digital Strategy is up for revision this year, and part of that is a meeting in Auckland next month to talk about how we need to be digital, and how we can be. The meeting will even have a feed into Second Life!

This ain’t your Grandma’s policy summit – unless she’s a seriously wired lady, that is.

posted by colin at 9:18 pm  

Thursday, October 18, 2007


Last night I went to the first ever New Zealand Open Source Awards. This was a great evening. There was a big turnout, including some of the luminaries of the New Zealand IT scene – David Cunliffe, Rod Drury, Pete Macaulay to name just three.

And then there were the finalists. As a judge – not sure how that happened, but I was honoured to be asked – I got to see the complete list of nominations. I had *no idea* there was just so much open source going on here, and much of it is playing on a world stage. Getting to the shortlist was staggeringly difficult, and choosing the winners was – well, I hope all finalists are still talking to me!

But the real message here was that New Zealanders are making open source contributions. As one of the winners put it: just about all the big open source project teams around the world have a kiwi in there. The Australians present were kind enough to say we were ahead of them in open source, and I wonder if it’s something to do with our #8 wire mentality, or #8 fibre as David Cunliffe put it. There are some simply stunning projects and people and I was humbled to see the breadth and depth of what they are achieving.

Others have written more than I about the event. I’m glad I went. It was a blast seeing those innovative people recognised. And it was a damn good evening.

Finally, big ups to the sponsors, and particularly to Catalyst IT, who supplied so much of the time of Don Christie, Mike O’Connor (great MC!) and Chris Daish. And no doubt many other Catalystas whose names I don’t know. They look like they are doing pretty well – who says open source is bad for business?

posted by colin at 8:28 pm  

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Digital rights management

This week on Radio New Zealand National I talked about so-called Digital Rights Management. That’s the stuff which tries to stop you playing your CDs on your computer, won’t let you play specific DVDs on particular machines, and means that music bought from online download stores will only play on some kinds of music players.

Read on for my speaking notes and some links at the end.


posted by colin at 10:50 am  

Thursday, October 11, 2007

We all need standards

Today on Radio New Zealand National I talked about standards for computers and networking and why we need them.

The capsule summary here is:

  • Having no standards allows companies to charge what they like and kills innovation.
  • Having two or more standards is much the same as having none.
  • Having one officially-blessed standard means that companies have to compete on the excellence of their products rather than being able to lock their customers in. And it allows magic like the Internet to emerge.

Read on for my speaking notes, and as usual there are some links at the bottom.


posted by colin at 10:50 am  

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Book review: Towards the Light

There is no statement so absurd that no philosopher will make it, or so said Cicero in the first century BC. And philosophers as a class have a reputation for wasting years and lives on fruitless speculation.

Which is why AC Grayling is so impressive. On paper he has the qualifications for sterile theorising – he is, after all, a Professor of Philosophy at Birkbeck College, part of the University of London. In practice he writes accessible books which take positions about real world issues.


posted by colin at 2:17 pm  

Friday, October 5, 2007

One laptop per child

Laudable aim or inappropriate toys? The OLPC foundation aims to distribute one laptop to every child in the world. Of course, that’s hopelessly impractical with laptops costing about $1,000. But what about $200? Or even $100?

The laptop has been designed and is available. It’s nothing like a traditional Windows machine, or a Mac for that matter. It runs a version of Linux, and there is a special key to see the source of whatever you are looking at, be it program or web page. Kids are encouraged to change things and see what effect that has, and they can restore the laptop to its original state with a button if they get it wrong.

A reviewer for the New York Times has got his hands on one – and he likes it. Have a read.

Update: the good people over at have a great post summarising the laptop and drawing lessons from it about laptop design. Perhaps some of what this ‘toy laptop’ does is sufficiently advanced that we will see it in our machines in the future!

posted by colin at 6:05 pm  

Thursday, October 4, 2007

The ascent of Firefox

On Radio New Zealand National today I talked about the Firefox web browser – what it is, where it came from, where it’s going to and what you can do with it. Read on for my notes, and links (including how you can get your own copy of Firefox) are at the bottom.

posted by colin at 10:50 am  

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