Writings on technology and society from Wellington, New Zealand

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Setting standards

Today on Radio New Zealand National I talked about being in Geneva at an international standards meeting. There’s a lot of passionate and engaged people here. Read on for my speaking notes. (more…)

posted by colin at 10:50 am  

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

No business like SCO business

Back in September I talked about a company called SCO that had been falsely claiming that it owned Linux – and it lost badly in court, and quite right too. In September it went into Chapter 11, as the US calls its bankruptcy legislation.

Well, SCO has just been acquired by some investors in the Middle East. It’s really not clear why because the company appears to have massive liabilities and no real hope of any income. Here’s some speculation by an analyst suggesting that this is some kind of move to get one of the big players to buy the company out of sheer annoyance value. I’m not sure if things work that when millions are at stake, but we may – sadly – not have heard the last of this yet.

posted by colin at 4:48 am  

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Swiss role

Sorry about the dreadful pun! I’m on my way to Geneva to represent New Zealand at a meeting of the International Standards Organisation, ISO.

Geneva was the home of the protestant reformer John Calvin. Calvin held that adherence to biblical precepts was far important more than any act of charity or kindness. These days, we’d call him a fundamentalist. And, like so many charismatic religious leaders, he got to define exactly how people lived according to those precepts. People who opposed him, or whose theology was a little different, tended to come to a sticky end. He gave his name to particularly dour branch of protestantism. There are echoes of Calvinism in a lot of modern Christian thought.

Anyway, I’m going to Geneva to attend a Ballot Resolution Meeting for a draft standard – DIS29500, commonly known as OOXML. New Zealand voted “no” on this standard last time round, as did sufficient other countries to prevent it being made a world standard on the spot. This meeting is to discuss the various objections that the different countries have to the technical quality of the draft standard and to see if changes can be agreed to it. Countries which have already voted, like New Zealand, then get 30 days to decide whether they wish to change their votes.

This will be a very solid 5 day meeting. Even so, at 6,000 pages with another 2,300 pages of comments the draft standard is so big that the meeting can’t possibly do justice to the whole thing.

According to ISO rules I’m not allowed to blog or broadcast about the contents of the meeting, which is closed to the public and the press. I’ll do my regular Thursday radio broadcast from Geneva (Wednesday night, my time) and I’ll talk about the process and about what it’s like to be involved.

I’m looking forward to the meeting, and I’m also looking forward to meeting some people I have worked closely with round the world, but have never actually met. Ain’t the Net marvellous?

posted by colin at 10:18 am  

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Quantum computing

This week on Radio New Zealand National I talked about the strange world of quantum computing and its more surprising implications. Read on for my notes…

posted by colin at 10:50 am  

Thursday, February 14, 2008


Today on Radio New Zealand National I talked about mashups – a way of joining together songs or videos to make something wholly new.

Read on for my notes and links.

posted by colin at 12:59 pm  

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Domain name tasting

No, not a way to make people use tasteful names on the Net, but the practice of registering names to see if you can make money off them and cancelling them inside the free “grace period” if you can’t.

There are people out there registering 100,000 names a day and cancelling 99% of the names before they have to pay. Typically these people put a webpage full of advertising on the name as they register it, and they only keep it if people click on the adverts.

This is a bad practice because it prevents people from getting access to names because some taster has grabbed them. It also stresses the registration systems. And its very much against the spirit of the system.

There’s a lot of discussion going on at ICANN on how to shut down the tasters. Perhaps the free grace period will be removed, or perhaps people will only be allowed to cancel a small proportion of the names they register.

It’s interesting to watch the people who care about this practice coming up with a solution to the problem.

posted by colin at 12:06 am  

Monday, February 11, 2008

A passage to India

I’m in Delhi at a meeting of ICANN, the body which runs the core Internet domain name and number systems. It meets three times a year in a different world city every time. I’m doing some work for ICANN as part of a review team; but I already know many of the people here from my days as president of InternetNZ.

I don’t think I’m going to have time to see much of Delhi, unfortunately. It’s also a lot colder here than I believed it could be – I’m far too cold sitting round in a business suit. Most people have winter woolies on!

posted by colin at 4:51 pm  

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Foo Camp

Last weekend I was lucky enough to be able to go to the Foo Camp, a technology camp in Warkworth. I talked about it today on Radio New Zealand National – read on for my speaking notes. (more…)

posted by colin at 10:55 am  

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Cables being cut in the Middle East

Some undersea cables have been cut by a ship. The results have affected Internet and phone service in the Middle East. (more…)

posted by colin at 9:50 am  

Friday, February 1, 2008

Off to the Foo Camp!

I’m just off to Warkworth for the second ever Kiwi Foo camp. 150 clever people in one place, all weekend, no agenda. Last year we had some musicians, journos and politicians as well. Things got done, and it was a blast. This year, Kim Hill is broadcasting her Saturday morning progamme on Radio New Zealand National from the camp. I’ll talk about it on Kathryn Ryan’s programme next Thursday.

I’m looking forward to it!

posted by colin at 9:43 am  

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