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Archive for January, 2007

Denial of Global Warning Becomes a Taboo

Sri Lanka shoreline, before and after the earthquake
Picture from the BBC (2004).

IT is relieving to see that some educated people in the States have begun fighting disinformation. Recently, a serious matter that is denial of global warming has been taken more seriously. In fact, severe actions could soon be taken against those who seek to deny factual dangers whose impact is considerable. Have a look at the short summary from Slashdot.

Expert Wants to Decertify Global Warming Skeptics

“Apparently in the Senate, at least one scientist wants to put a permanent stop to any arguments over Global Warming. The Weather Channel’s most prominent climatologist is advocating that broadcast meteorologists be stripped of their scientific certification if they express skepticism about predictions of manmade catastrophic global warming.”

Web 2.0 Data Export

RecycleMobility of data is becoming an important issue these days. Many people’s data is stored on third-party Web sites, whose data formats are not specified. The data cannot be exported (e.g. for upgrades or migration) either, so there’s a lockin involved in many such Web services (think Web 2.0).

Possession of one’s data would be a selling point. So why are sites not providing this facility? Why is its implementation assigned such a low priority? Simply put, sites wish to elevate exit barriers and make it hard for customers to walk away. But there is a cost here. This leads to resentment. This leads to backlash, which DRM, for example, comes to show us.

Let’s just integrate facilities for import and export in all user-driven Web sites. Export at the least — one that relies on standard protocols for containing data — should be crucial. Without import facilities, quick flow of SPAM is not an issue, in the case of public-facing sites such as Digg.com. Just take del.icio.us for example.

New Google Groups Interface Hates AdBlock

Google on a computer screen

Earlier today, a mini milstone for Google Groups left its stingy mark . The beta version of the new interface, which acts as a gateway to UseNet (and beyond), has just gone live as a stable service. The old presenatation, which was simpler, is sadly no longer available. I am not too happy about this ‘facelift’, yet no options that I navigated through could take me back to the minimalist and familiar interface. This transition — a questionable ‘upgrade’ — may be even worse than the last one, which discoraged proper netiquette and earned Google Groups users some bad reputation. It sometimes led them to killfiles and filters, quite collectively and prejudicely.

In any event, my main concern with the new interface is one which cost me between 15 minutes to half an hour. The new Google Groups interface conflicts with AdBlock (Firefox plugin). Something in the naming of the divs has apparently changed. Looking at userContent.css (under /chrome) and removing some of the prominent selectors with “ad” as a substring resolved the issue. They are located at the top, but I am not sure whose removal resolved the problem.

So, in case someone is having the same trouble as me, I decided to post this as a blog item that’ll prove redundant to most readers. Let’s make something more useful of this ramble. Are you reading and /or using Digg? If so, why not strip all the ads off the site?

Handling SPAM in Large Social Content Management Systems

Junk mail

HANDLING SPAM where collaboration is involved can be a hard task, whereas in non-social systems, erasing SPAM (or content with vandalistic intent) may be easy(ier). There is virtually no interaction with the context in the latter case. With social Web sites and forums this equates to nuking a spammer along with some innocent people in the spammer’s surroundings. In the case of collaborative editing, such as this one which I discovered yesterday, judgment becomes difficult as well. It’s marginal because free of speech, authority, and censorship ought to be weighed.

I would like to throw in some random thoughts: earlier this morning, in Netscape, I had a look at some tag clouds and saw some arcane phrases dominating the cloud. I decided to dive in and I found that these sometimes came from spammers (brute-force tagging) whose account had been suspended. This led me to pondering if by leaving these links in tact spammers have an incentive to return. There’s a true dilemma where SPAM comes to a content management system. It’s much easier when it comes to E-mail, unless excessive marketing and bulk mail which fills up boxes is concerned.

Returning to my main concern, Netscape thrives in high figures. High figures may be good for site vanity and integrity of the whole community (e.g. not purging votes and comments of non-spammers), but what about a bury-like feature (a la Digg) that keeps these submissions of out the reach/sight of search engines (and sometimes human visitors too)? As it stands, spammers are currently being rewarded by going under the ‘radar’ of Web spiders.

Security First, Only Then User Convenience

LockSadly, many people use a convenient argument to defend Windows’ security problems. They would like you to believe that security is failing because of relative market share, not inherent security, which one can attain through proper design. Windows was built to serve users’ convenience while neglecting to account for the subsequent inclusion of an Internet connection. Windows was very desktop centric, as Gates’ snubbing of the Internet has proven over the years. That, and only that, is why Microsoft struggles to rewrite a vast codebase in a quick and secure fashion that leads to mature and well-established libraries.

The following articles demonstrate and explain why Windows is simply insecure by design. Market share plays a relatively minor role in this equation.

Consider more secure platforms, preferably ones that confirm with the POSIX/UNIX model that has matured over many decades. Keep the cr4ck3rZ working much hard(er).

Laptop

Capitalise, then Demoralise

Bill Gates
Bill Gates arrested in his younger days (photo in public domain)

LET me make a seemingly spurious statement: Capitalism is about rival vendors competing with one another for the betterment of society (e.g. advancement in science and technology). It is not about monopolies that eliminate any attempt to compete, or simply absorb every threat to hinder advancement. Which leads me to discussing Windows Vista and monoculture…

There’s a certain arrogance in Vista. Yes, there’s a certain vain statement therein: what we implement will become the rule, or the ‘standard’ (de facto or otherwise). If case you have not heard, Hollywood and Microsoft have decided the control the users. This endangers our most basic rights. Never mind the backlash that conflicts with the “if you build it, they will come” field of dreams, which relies on a monopoly.

This whole scenario making of the rules reminds me of people who say “PowerPoint presentation” instead of “presentation” and limit format choice in conferences to just one proprietary (could be patented also) format that’s pricey to use, prone to breakage, insecure, etc. That gives me a compelling-enough reason to never say “use Google” but to suggest “Web search engines” instead. By limiting our choices at will we restrict improvement and punish ourselves in the long term. We naively hand over power to monopolies. And all evil empires begin small and rely on innocence and undeserved trust.

Animal Mass Extinction – Men Kills Nature

Rabbit

IN this age when convenience is perpetually sought, will mankind care about other living species? Are they a priority? Are petty acts which demonstrate care, such as Dell’s latest initiative to plant a tree for every computer sold and encourage/assist disposal, truly helpful? And can this change the big picture? To me, it seems highly doubtful.

People seek the friendly mugs when the limelight turns to them. It’s about perception of those who surround us. Little gestures and niceties do not reverse something that progresses at a much larger scale. Meanwhile, our planet is being destroyed and lives are claimed in the process. Sometimes, this life which required hundreds of thousands years of evolution is never to be restored. It is sad really. Below is a short snippet from the article which stirred and led to this unannounced rant.

Experts estimate there are 15,589 species threatened with extinction. But a species is only accepted to have become extinct if exhaustive surveys in its known habitat range have failed to find any record of the individual.

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