Writings on technology and society from Wellington, New Zealand

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Where it all started

This week on Radio New Zealand National I talk about the Colossus computers built by the British during the second world war. They were the first computer that we would recognise today as a general data-processing machine, and to compare one with a modern server room you wouldn’t think that computers had changed that much. Apart from the rows of glowing valves and the streams of high-speed paper tape, that is.

Read on for my speaking notes or download the audio as ogg or mp3. (more…)

posted by colin at 2:05 am  

Monday, February 23, 2009

Democracy in action

The government has just announced that it will delay S92a until at least the 27th of March, and will suspend it in any case until the Internet people and the copyright holders can agree. That’s fantastic, and victory for common sense.

Well done, everyone who has worked to get rid of this dreadful law! Special mentions go to Bronwyn and Matthew from the CFF and Nat Torkington from Foo. But most of all thanks to you – if you blacked out your avatar, or blogged about it, or wrote to an MP – good on you. You made a difference.


posted by colin at 5:20 pm  

Sunday, February 22, 2009

UPDATED: Why have we got this terrible copyright law?

Over on Geekzone, Juha Saarinen is running a great piece on why the last government ignored submissions and Bill of Rights considerations to ram this unjust law through. Apparently, it’s a requirement of a free trade deal with the US.

Let’s just pause and examine this. If the US want to change our law, how come they make it stronger than own? Answer: to build up public pressure for further tightening at home. And, why don’t our politicians come clean about this as the real reason for introducing the harshest law in the world? Answer: because they want to be able to blow their own trumpets for introducing an FTA without people realising they gave away our rights for it.

Even John Key thinks the law is draconian, not well-drafted, and pretty ropey. (His words, listen to the MP3 and skip forward to 8 min 20s.) He tries to blame Judith Tizard for the law. But he’s not rushing to fix it. UPDATE: The implementation has been delayed until 29th March. Well done for listening, John.

Australia got an FTA with the US. It was signed by politicians because they had to – they had already puffed it hard in the press and it would have been politically embarrassing not to. But it was signed against the advice of trade officials who realised that the FTA Australia was able to negotiate gave away more than it received in return, as it has since proved. Anyone think we could do better?

Before someone says how essential trade is – yes, of course it is. But a Free Trade Agreement is an oxymoron – either you have free trade or you don’t. And if you don’t, then an agreement might better be called a restricted trade agreement, because that is its effect. Perhaps it’s slightly less restricted than what went before.

If politicians deem it justified to legislate away New Zealanders’ rights to a handful of multinationals in exchange for improved trade, let’s have that debate. Don’t be shy, let’s get the costs and benefits out on the table. Then we can all discuss them. We may not all agree, but a least we all get to see what the balance is.

Or, if Juha and I are wrong that this is all about trade – let the government deny it publicly. Then, explain why we have to have this law when more New Zealand artists are members of the Creative Freedom Foundation than APRA.

Finally, Dylan Horrocks has drawn a fantastic cartoon – spread it far and wide!


posted by colin at 3:12 pm  

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Broadcasting from Webstock

Today on Radio New Zealand National I broadcast live from the Webstock conference In Wellington. This is an amazing event run by volunteers in Wellington every year. If your day to day business involves creating things on the web, you should definitely go.

I also talk about the social media blackout and the campaign to repeal S92a of the Copyright Act. Here’s where to download the audio as ogg or mp3. (more…)

posted by colin at 11:23 am  

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Don’t like the Copyright Act? Go to Parliament at 12 today!

Today is the day to turn up and tell politicians what you think of S92a of the Copyright Act. There’s a petition being handed in. Come by noon, and wear bright clothes!

posted by colin at 7:12 am  

Monday, February 16, 2009

Blackout: Say no to Guilt upon Accusation

Repeal S92a now!

You may have noticed sites turning black today. Black is what the New Zealand Internet could become if we don’t act now. Parliament has sold New Zealand Internet users down the river, and only Parliament can fix it.

posted by colin at 3:33 pm  

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Feeding the inner geek

I’m at Foo Camp listening to Ben Goodger of Google and Robert O’Callaghan of Mozilla. Both are deeply technical people who are developing web browsers – Ben is developing Google’s Chrome browser, and Robert is part of the Firefox team. (And he lives in Auckland, along with several other FF team members.)

Ben and Robert telling us what’s coming up in both their browsers, and they are asking the web developers in the room – a couple of dozen – what they want to see in the browser. This is such a great way to develop browser code – there’s a direct feedback loop between the guys who develop the new stuff and the people who exploit it to make cool websites.

posted by colin at 3:02 pm  

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Off to Foo

Tomorrow I’m going to Warkworth to the third annual Kiwi Foo Camp.

Foo is an amazing experience. It’s so energising to be there with scientists, geeks, and artists. And Nathan, Jenine and Russell do a fine job in organising it.

Part of the deal with Foo is that everyone presents (“no passengers”). I’m going to talk about “Hacking Government”. It seems that the geek community is quite bad at telling government what it wants, in a way that government actually responds to. Perhaps we can start to deal with that.

posted by colin at 2:54 pm  

Friday, February 6, 2009

Wacky web headline of the week

Immortal Dr Who jellyfish poised to rule Earth

Go on, you know you want to.

posted by colin at 8:02 am  

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Poor broadband and worse copyright law

Today on Radio New Zealand National I talk about the dreadful piece of copyright that our last government foisted on us, and that, incredibly, the current one – which claims to ‘get’ the Internet to the extent of throwing a lot of our tax money at it – intends to implement regardless.

This really is bad. Nowhere else has implemented law which assumes people are guilty if they are accused. That’s because that’s contrary to natural justice. The UK government, for instance, has just announced that it has dropped consideration of a similar law. But we are gonig ahead. Is this the kind of way we want New Zealand to stand out – unjust law?

You can read on for the script, which I may or may not stick to, or download the audio as ogg or mp3. (more…)

posted by colin at 1:12 pm  

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