Saturday, February 28, 2009

Pictures from a Fractal Dimension

Back in the days when USENET was USENET, I collected a lot of fractal pictures; from alt.math if my memory serves me right. The year should be 1998. The term fractal was coined by Benoit Mandelbrot in 1975, with the Latin root "fractus" meaning broken or fractured and many did not hesitate to slip into the fractal dimension in the newsgroups.

Then occurred a frenzy of posting fractals, geometric shapes based on iterative equations where each part was a reduced copy of the whole. Here is a small selection from my favorites:

fractal jungle 
Jungle


fractal bluebird 
Bluebird

fractal demon 
Demon

fractal fetus 
Fetus

fractal napkins 
Napkins

fractal poem 
A poem

fractal snail 
Snail
Hope you enjoy them.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Traps to Avoid in Blog Design

I have made a small experiment for the last two days. I visited some 50 blogs yesterday and bookmarked only the ones that I had no desire to read for any reason. Today, I revisited them. To my surprise, at least 10% of them turned out to be very good. This led me thinking, how come did I miss them?

The following video in which a corporation is assigned to design the traffic stop signs we all love to see might help:



Believe it or not, I have been to such a meeting!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Winter Camp - Amsterdam, 03-07 March, 2009

When a network settles down, and is not so new anymore, it can be quite a challenge to keep it’s activity level. Should a network then transform into a so-called ‘organized network’? Organizing a network does not necessarily mean decreasing the level of spontaneity to make way for rules and hierarchy: it can provide a place for sustainable knowledge sharing and production. As Ned Rossiter argues in his book Organized Networks (2006), face-to-face meetings are crucial “if the network is to maintain momentum, revitalize energy, consolidate old friendships and discover new ones, recast ideas, undertake further planning activities, and so on.” Network Cultures Winter Camp is therefore meant for those networks and (potential) network members that need support to gather in real life, conspire, discuss and make the necessary steps forward. Winter Camp does not have an (academic) educational or training component, but there is a lot to learn.

Winter Camp will be organized by the Institute of Network Cultures and is a mix of presentations and work spaces with an emphasis on getting things done. Networks like Blender, Bricolabs, Creative Labor, Dyne.org, Edufactory, Floss Manuals, freeDimensional Network, Genderchangers, Goto10, Microvolunteerism, MyCreativity and Upgrade! will be participating. Although it is a closed event, there will be an open session on Saturday. Besides, you may hack your way in, if you are creative enough. :-)

Friday, February 20, 2009

Pirate Bay Trial a Huge PR Success

For whom you would ask. Well, definitely not for the so called copyright holders. Riyaz Jariwalla a solicitor who specialises in contentious matters sums up the trial nicely,

Swedish filesharing providers Pirate Bay yesterday celebrated a victory in only its second day of its trial for allegedly assisting copyright infringement. The rights holders were unable to prove to the satisfaction of the court that files which were illegally distributed had been used on Pirate Bay. The prosecution which represented Warner Bros, MGM, Universal and EMI had to abandon the majority of the claims.

Even if the case unfolds differently, the big labels lose ground on the public relations front. There is a growing dislike towards them thanks to ridiculous I should say charges pressed to individuals in the USA and I witnessed a fair amount of people who stopped buying any product from those big corporations. I am aware that making such a generalization is often wrong but that is what it is. Riyaz puts it better than I do,

PR is hugely relevant to both parties as they fight for the positions. To date we have seen many cases of file sharing which ought never have been brought against innocent individuals. These PR set backs have resulted in significant damage being done to the rights holders interests. It is therefore essential that if you are going to issue a letter of claim against anyone suspected of file sharing then you have to be super confident that the person you are claiming has infringed your copyright is the person who has infringed and it is not a housemate or Mr anonymous. The backlash will be severe and while it is off the media's agenda at the moment it is likely that the blackout will only be temporary.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Pirates of the Bay Face Trial

pirate bay stockholm sweden
The ever notorious bit-torrent tracker The Pirate Bay trial begins in Stockholm, Sweden. Three years ago the police raided the Bay's headquarters and seized their servers on the grounds that the Pirate Bay helped distribute copyrighted material. The popularity of the site steadily increased from then on and there is even a political party (The Pirate Party) defending alternative copyright laws.

The accusations have been summed up in a 4,000 page paper. One particular note worth mentioning is Jim Keyzer, one of the police officers raided the peer to peer tracker three years ago is now an employee of Warner Bros.

The curious may check the Pirate Bay blog. I am sure they will give some details about the progress of the trial from time to time.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Burhan Marketing

buy vista get a free update to windows 7
Burhan was a phenomenon, to say the least. He was the most successful "on board" marketer doing business on the ferries crossing the Bosphorus. He was so popular that people deliberately delayed their purchases to see what he would be selling  on that day's voyage. His secret?
  • quality merchandise
  • money back guarantee
  • and above all, an interesting combination of goods.
Last item on the list was particularly important. He never sold a single item alone. There was first the prime product of the day, the flagship so to speak, and a secondary one, which was definitely intriguing. It was hard to resist the temptation. The bargain was there, together with the trust which was earned over the course of years Burhan conducted his business, a track record hard to beat. He refused all offers to build a company, saying he was making more than enough. He really was.

Microsoft is planning a campaign or so I have heard, a free update to Windows 7 for buyers of Vista, which reminded me Burhan. But the similarity ends here. The flagship product sucks and the secondary product is a promise. Burhan would probably do better.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Floss Documentation and Manuals

It is a fact that free, libre and open source software (floss) use is on the rise. Still, the momentum is not as steep as developers want it to be. One major handicap for propagation of floss applications is the lack of clear and concise documentation. Some may argue that there is enough documentation to get anyone going. Not quite so!

A few months back I wrote a how-to about uploading a favicon to a Blogspot blog. Yesterday, I asked a friend who had a blog, if he could upload a favicon according to my instructions in the article. He tried and came back telling me he was unable to understand it. What went wrong?

Apparently I failed to put my feet into the shoes of a completely novice user. What was clear for me, was not so clear for him.

It is really a sort of black voodoo to accomplish such a task. Human mind plays tricks and thoughts outpace words.

I came across Floss Manuals a few days ago, and that is why I arranged the aforementioned test.

FLOSS Manuals make free software more accessible by providing clear documentation that accurately explains their purpose and use. Each manual explains what the software does and what it doesn’t do, what the interface looks like, how to install it, how to set the most basic configuration necessary, and how to use its main functions. To ensure the information remains useful and up to date the manuals are regularly developed to add more advanced uses, and to document changes and new versions of the software.

You can find quality documentation for various floss applications like Inkscape, OpenOffice, Firefox, Muse, NvU, Audacity, Blender, etc. Definitely worth a look.

Friday, February 13, 2009

$250,000 Bounty for Virus Hunters

conficker downaddup sasser kido virus worm
Obviously the Conficker virus is going stronger than I thought. 20 technology firms including Microsoft, Verisign, Symantec and F-Secure have joined forces to find the source and/or the developer of the virus also known as Downadup, Sasser and Kido. They are offering $250,000 to anyone who can provide the information needed.

Conficker is still spreading at an alarming rate of 2.2 million computers a day. Those who are running Windows operating system are strongly encouraged to apply the patch Microsoft released late October.

It is also worth noting that the algorithm of the worm (this is the correct term) is still a mystery in spite of all the efforts by anti-virus companies.

69 Computers Missing in Nuclear Research Lab

los alamos national laboratory new mexico usa

The authorities from Los Alamos National Laboratory, a nuclear arms reasearch facility in New Mexico, USA have finally admmitted 69 of their computers are missing.

Leaving aside the significance of the number 69, the lab spokesperson Kevin Roarke has said that there was no important information stored in the computers. Surely, I am not in a position to dispute Roarke's claim until I am finished with all the files (this is the joke part).

All in all, I feel much safer now. I know that researchers in Los Alamos are simple souls just like me, surfing internet with their PC's. What a relief!

Nova Linux: From Cuba with Love

nova linux distribution of cuba

Cuba is soon to get into the list of countries with a national Linux distribution. The interesting government of Cuba, which until last year did not allow her citizens to own a PC or a cellular phone, has made a quantum leap according to our man in Havana.

The distro has been introduced in 13. International Technology Fair to the enthusiastic spectators. Hector Rodriguez, Dean of Faculty of Open Source Software at University of Havana said:

"Linux is ideologically more convenient for us."

Closed sourced commercial  operating systems like Microsoft are not allowed into Cuba because of U.S. embargo.

Bloggers to be Imprisoned and Flogged in Iran

blogging is dangerous in iran
Gods must be hungry as they are looking for more pain and misery. Nine Iranian bloggers (five of them ethnic Azeris) will be jailed and whipped for good measure to satisfy and feed the ever starving Gods so that stormy weathers will cease, crops will flourish and harvests will yield record levels of produce.

What did these bloggers do? I really can't tell as my Persian is rusty and the damn alphabet is not Latin, but apparently they upset a few religious figures with colorful turbans with their articles in their blog, which is usually blocked or temporarily closed so that they will behave.

Go Gods!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Valentine's Day Viruses

bug of valentines day striking at your pc
Protection is not confined to your bedroom or another convenient place as this year's Valentine's Day approaches. Those old, sorry mature enough to remember the havoc caused by the cute "I Love You" and "Love Letter" viruses will sadly remember. How time flies, doesn't it? The damages had exceeded 6 billion dollars, then.

You can of course say "it's worth it," or a similar cliche but better be protected rather than sorry. Possible names for these lovely bugs to reappear on or around this naughty day of February might be "You are beautiful", "From me to you", "I wanna hold your hand", "Only you", "Love at first sight", "I am addicted to you", "Our song", "Save the last dance for me", "Helter Skelter" (O.K., this one's a joke)... But you get the drill.

Be vewy vewy careful!

The Vienna Document

Some headlines from the Vienna Document by the Open Cultures Working Group hosted by "Towards a Culture of Open Networks" - a collaborative program developed by Sarai CSDS (Delhi), Waag Society (Amsterdam) and World-Information.Org (Vienna).

While global information cities increasingly resemble neo-medieval city states, market concentrations establish a dominion over knowledge. On the way to information feudalism, diversity seems to loose out.

We applaud all initiatives that reclaim the benefits of new communication technologies for the common public.

We know that the future is too precious to leave it to experts; digital human rights in everyday life are everyone's concern.

We trust nodes open of information cultures to explore the diversity of choices in the shaping of information societies based on semiotic democracy.

We recognize that street level open intelligence is of high public value and a cultural process that is highly dependent on information climate and environment conditions.

We do not accept a world where popular culture and human heritage is fenced in and IP restriction management separates us from our own thoughts.

We appreciate the fact that boundaries between users and producers become permeable in new communication environments and new practices dissolve traditional notions of authorship.

We are committed to critically observing the mindsets of possession and the creation of scarcity as processes implementing control in the information economy.

We refuse to live in an information society where nothing belongs to all of us, but everything is owned by cartels, locking human knowledge into the vaults of private interests.

We acknowledge that knowledge is for those who do, not for those who don't, because cultural progress implies that ideas emerge from exchanges, from communication, from interaction.

We do not want a world where you need a license to whistle a song or access your own memories.

We value information as a human resource of cultural expression rather than a commodity to be sold to consumers.

We anticipate a silent spring in Information Society's landscapes when even a bird's song becomes subject of copyright control.

We realize that intangible information resources raise the issue of a digital ecology, the need to understand ecosystems constituted by information flows through various media.

We urge to ask who benefits from technology that is never neutral, empowerment and participation or domination and containment.

We reaffirm that security concerns are not an excuse for pervasive surveillance and control environments linking personal profiles and producing social sorting and segregation.

Just to remind myself...

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Penumbral Lunar Eclipse

penumbral lunar eclipse 
Tomorrow we shall witness a penumbral (not full) lunar eclipse. It will be visible in Eastern Europe, Middle East, Western Africa while the Moon is rising, and in North America while the Moon is setting. In places to the east of Iran, the event can be observed all night.

As you may know 2009 is World Astronomy Year and I invite everyone to participate the observation.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Cheap Laptop Sakshat

the only known picture of shakshat, cheap laptop
Here is the only known picture of the so called 500 Rupee / 10 dollar laptop, the Indian Sakshat. Unfortunately it is anything but a PC. It can connect to a network, has limited disk space and can make a calculation or two.

Apparently, the digital divide is to stay with us for some time.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Sousveillance - Aarhus, 8-9 February 2009

sousveillance conference logo aarhus denmark feb 08-09
Sousveillance, original French, as well as inverse surveillance are terms coined by Steve Mann (Toronto, Canada) to describe the recording of an activity from the perspective of a participant. "Surveillance" denotes the act of watching from above, whereas "sousveillance" denotes bringing the practice of observation down to human level (ordinary people doing the watching, rather than higher authorities or architectures doing the watching).

If you are in Aarhus Denmark around or on Feb 8-9 and do not know what to do, Sousveillance, the art of inverse surveillance conference is an event not to be missed. From the web site:

Moving away from cameras and directional microphones, face and voice recognition, the pervasive technologies offer not only the ability to gather and organize huge amounts of dissimilar data, but as well on grounds of these to predict probable patterns of behavior. Commercial mobile variants of Google Maps, YouTube or Facebook are by far the only ones to make use of these possibilities. Urban games, locative art, flashmob art, pervasive games etc. all represent new forms of observational and aesthetic experiments with how we through technology perceive and make use of the urban space itself.

The conference will be held in conjunction with two digital art exhibitions in the city of Aarhus (one at ARoS and another at Skive Art Museum) and aims to create a platform for sharing and discussing the topic of surveillance, privacy and control of information, analyzing different creative, artistic and political strategies to produce fluid zones of interventions, both in the urban space and on the net.

Learn to create your own minority report as Philip K. Dick would say.

The Pink Internet is Soon Due

Four Google executives in Italy is facing trial over a video shown in that country. If found guilty, they will be sentenced up to three years in jail.

This is an interesting case. Let me sum up:
  • The video recorded by a cell phone was about four male high school students in Turin harassing a 17-year-old boy with Down syndrome.
  • Google removed the video in 24 hours after receiving the complaint.
  • All four offenders were caught, possibly with the help of the video.
  • The lawsuit is not against Google but the people working for Google.
As you might have guessed it, what makes this interesting is the last item in the list above. Apparently, it is getting riskier to work for Internet companies as you can all of a sudden find yourself looking at the judge because,
  1. a co-worker slipped and some unwanted content is uploaded;
  2. some may think you deliberately allow the content be distributed;
  3. you did not remove the content right away and spent some time with your family instead;
  4. this will teach everybody a lesson.
Seriously, I am all fed up with people trying to regulate something that cannot be regulated. Since the new Internet protocol IP6 is soon due, why don't we allocate a sufficient number of IP addresses and call it "The Pink Internet" so that everyone is happy? It must be trivial to make sure that no packets will be routed from one Internet (the dark one) to the pinkie one and vice versa.

500 Rupee/10 Dollar Laptop from India

xo pc of olpc project
Too good to be true? Well, after 100 thousand rupee (2000 usd) car Tata Nano, 800 rupee (15 usd) L10 mobile phone, apparently India managed to make a 10 dollar laptop, in spite of criticism by many experts.

The concept of cheap laptops which will abridge the big digital divide between rich and poor, is the dream child of Prof. Nicholas Negraponte of MIT with his OLPC, One Laptop Per Child Project. The OLPC's XO PC costs roughly 200 dollars and has been sort of a huge success in South American countries.

The Sakshat laptop PC, if true can really be a dream come true for many living in undeveloped countries.

Like in every wonderful story, there is a catch. I have seen some sources citing the price of Sakshat as 5000 rupees or 100 dollars. We shall see the actual price tomorrow at the press conference. Still, even a hundred dollar price tag is good enough.

Google Ocean, Google Mars, Google ...?

view of google mars layer 
Google's popular geography program Google Earth's new version offers users to explore oceans and the red planet, Mars. Google Earth 5.0  has been introduced at the Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, to a group of spectators including former U.S. vice president Al Gore, (the man who allegedly invented the Internet among other things).

Joke aside, the new version is really cool, especially the ocean layer. Not only it gives viewers an amazing 3D experience of our oceans, you can find interesting stuff ranging from informative articles and photographs provided by National Geographic, BBC Earth, etc to ship wrecks - an indispensable tool for will-be treasure hunters. 

Monday, February 2, 2009

Weaving the Blueful Web

blue web by vivienne kelly
You have a message to pass, you want people hear you out. Do you really think blogging is the only way?

Web offers a variety of means to distribute content, your ideas and your thoughts, if you are creative enough. But why use one if you can use them all?

Take a look at the Blueful way (requires Java, JavaScript, Flash, sound and a modern browser) and let me know what you think.


Image: Blue Web by Vivienne Kelly

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Search Engine Popularity vs. Social Media

As readers of this blog are aware, my view of using social media is not mainstream, or should I say it is unorthodox. I strongly believe that achieving higher ranks in search engine results will yield more positive returns in the long run, as opposed to getting to the front pages of social media sites. Although this opinion is based more on intuition rather than raw data, I do have some statistics albeit limited in depth and scope.

I paid a visit to an internet cafe whose owner is a friend of mine. After a full day's observation, here are my preliminary findings:
  1. From a total of 54 customers, none visited a social media site.
  2. 60% of those said "yes" when asked if they had made a query using a search engine that day.
  3. The most popular application was MSN's instant message service.
I will go on and speculate that,
  • a considerable percentage of social media users is made up of bloggers themselves and commercial site owners.
  • For any blogger who wants to target casual internet users, the major source of traffic is search engines.
These findings are subject to the constraint whether my sample truely represents the behavior of typical home broadband users or not. I made a few on-site experiments here and will publish them soon.