Friday, 31-Oct-08 19:36
Putting the life on a single piece of paper

Just spent a good hour rewriting my CV. No, I didn't get fired or leave the company - it's just something I was asked to do for a project I undertook recently, and of which you will hear in due time (next spring-ish, is my guess).

Anyhoo, it's always been difficult for me to write a CV. On the other hand, I would very much like to write a small essay of each of the things that I've done, but that is obviously not possible for both size and confidentiality limitations. On the other hand, when you squeeze your CV down to a few lines, it sort of trivializes it all - how do you capture all the trials and challenges onto three lines? How do you explain how pivotal something has been to you, or what are the wonderful things and people you have learned during that time? How do you accurately describe your knowledge and assets?

It's even more difficult because different cultures treat CVs differently. Finns like a short, to the point-style with little ornaments. In some countries, you are supposed to exaggerate your accomplishments, which can sometimes lead to odd situations, when these people take a Finnish CV, and subtract the bullshit they would normally expect from a CV. Essentially, they'll end up with a document which says "Janne knows how to hold a spoon and no longer poops indoors."

But really the most difficult thing is the fact that once you've written it, and it all fit in a single A4, you look at it and remember all the jobs and the people, and you realize that that is all there is.

A single A4.

All your life's accomplishments. All the things you have been. And you can see whether you are going forward or backward, up or down, frying pan to a boiling kettle. It's unavoidably clear.

I don't know what makes me sad about it - the "that's it" -part, or the part that I care.

Which is probably why so many people take such a proud look at their children. You see, they don't fit on a piece of paper. They will write their own, in due time, and, I suppose, that gets added to your own.

(If you're interested, here's my A4(info). I'm not looking for work, but if you've got something really amazing going on, I am willing to listen. And hold a spoon for you.)

Wednesday, 29-Oct-08 16:39
A small plea

... to anyone who develops web applications. Install YSlow. It's the easiest way to figure out why watching mollusks dash a hundred yards is more pleasant than watching your web site load. Every ten minutes with Firebug and YSlow will save a thousand hours of time.

It sometimes seems to me that only a few companies really do care about the performance of their sites, trying to optimize execution speed rather than experience speed - but you can't really keep throwing more hardware at these problems. That is simply not a sustainable solution. But, if you pay someone to optimize your system you save on electricity, hardware, maintenance, and you are giving someone a job.

Thursday, 23-Oct-08 00:02
And I was so smug...

...about not watching a lot of TV. You know, what all self-righteous intellectuals should do: go about dissing TV and being proud of doing something meaningful as opposed to approaching a vegetative state on the couch.

Then three things happened:

  1. I installed the UK Auto Scheduler to my Topfield. And suddenly I could tape whatever I wanted without worrying about it changing air times.
  2. I ordered MTV3 Scifi, and realized that it's airing all episodes of Dr Who, Deep Space Nine and Voyager, the first one I had never seen and the rest I had mostly missed when they were first aired (Yes, the sad truth that I missed the last three seasons of DS9 completely. And people thought I was a Star Trek geek...)
  3. I got hooked to TVKaista, an online PVR system which records everything. Then you just go back and watch whatever you missed. A simply brilliant service, which unfortunately wastes quite a lot of resources (According to the copyright law, these guys must buy a separate box for every subscriber. Which is just dumb waste, environmentally and otherwise, especially since the money goes to hard drive vendors; not the authors of the content. I hope they get this one resolved soon so that they can use less resources and pay some of the saved money to the content authors.)

So now you know why I haven't been blogging. I'm totally immersed in passive media consumption - just simply because it is content that I want, whenever I want it. The freedom of not being tied to air schedules has completely changed my habits, and while I don't know how long this will last, it's just... pretty overwhelming.

Frankly, I don't even feel the urge to go and download anything off the internets anymore either. There's only so much time I can dedicate to watching television, and for my "yo box, entertain me for I am too tired to think!" -needs this all is more than enough.

There's a lot of power in traditional broadcasting still. They just need to adapt to the Internet distribution and content consuming models, and they'll be just fine.

Monday, 20-Oct-08 23:17
JSPWiki 2.8.0 released!

I am happy to be able to announce the first release of an Apache-licensed version of JSPWiki (though it is not yet an official Apache release; not even a podling release. That work starts now.)

It is available from the usual location at http://www.jspwiki.org/wiki/JSPWikiDownload

The cool new stuff is described here:

http://www.jspwiki.org/wiki/NewIn2.8

Personally, I'm pretty happy about getting this release out. There's been a lot of good work done by all contributors. It's probably the best release yet. If you want to test it out, try http://sandbox.jspwiki.org for a live installation which gets wiped out every day.

I have to admit that I'm pretty much on the same track as Linus on cutting releases: It's pretty much anti-climactic. Every release is preceded by a long lull during which everybody holds their breath as if not to accidentally break everything. And a new release appears as if out of boredom of nothing really happening, so therefore the thing must be stable.

This is a bit different from commercial software entities, which run around in great big loops and have lots of handwaving right before the software ships. I guess that's the difference between shipping "when it's ready" and "when we promised".

Friday, 17-Oct-08 11:31
It's the difference, stupid!

There have been recently some complaints about companies like Canonical (who make Ubuntu) or ~CentOS not contributing back to the upstream projects (like the Linux kernel, etc). I don't think it matters at all, simply because of two reasons:

It's probably fine as it is

Ubuntu mostly seems to concentrate on the user layer. Perhaps they are happy with the Linux core components as they are, and just simply don't need tweak the kernel at every occasion. And this goes with every single use of the OSS project - if you're happy with it, don't feel obligated to contribute back.

But if you do tweak the project, then there's a very important thing you must remember:

Deviation From The Trunk Is Expensive.

The further you deviate from the upstream trunk, the more it's going to cost you. You can maintain a small set of patches, but every single new revision of the underlying trunk is going to create you more headaches. There is a strong financial incentive to contribute back to the upstream, unless the changes you made are your own, critical business differentiators, in which case it is worth for you to pay the money, because that is why the customers are choosing your system.

Also, from my own personal experience as an OSS project lead, I have to admit that companies who do contribute back to the development have a whole lot more say as to where the project goes. We've had a few companies who've branched off our system, and then come back with suggestions how we could serve their particular problem. Typically, we tell them to make the changes and then contribute them as patches, and we'll happily take them in the trunk. They almost never do this, though some people do and it's really great. The end result is that these companies are then stuck with same age-old version of the system, and are unable to get the latest advances (including really useful stuff like security fixes), driven by some other companies, because it would be too cost-prohibitive for them to switch to the latest trunk.

The fun thing is that if you don't contribute in a quick manner, it's possible that the trunk has already changed so much that any contributions you send back are essentially worthless. So it is in your best interest to keep very close to the trunk, if you do build your version of the code.

I think this is just plain common sense, and one of the reasons why open source works: over the years, people have expressed concerns that someone could just take your code and make loads of money with it, if you give your source code for free. But because that won't stop the original development, you either need to choose to play ball with the trunk maintainers, or be prepared to use the money to essentially maintain your own version of the project. Which can be about as expensive as writing the whole thing on your own in the first place. So many companies choose to contribute back, because then the maintenance won't be their responsibility.

Open Source has these interesting built-in financial incentives, which transcend philosophical arguments about sharing and freedom and openness. Which is why open source makes so much sense as a perfectly viable model for any incremental development.

Monday, 13-Oct-08 17:17
Scandic is sustainable through... bottled water?

As you all know, bottled water is in the Nordic countries one of the worst offenders when it comes to environmental sustainability - and it ain't too far from the top from most other countries either. Our tap water is better than the bottled stuff.

Therefore it makes only sense that Scandic Hotels should start supporting sustainability by... getting an Olympic swimmer to create special water bottles? Well, at least they say that they will be filling them locally - and if they can recycle the bottles too, then it's way better than the current situation.

But still, this is quite an odd way to fight the climate change. I can only imagine how much damage to the environment the manufacture and disposal of a single bottle will be...

"10 euro cent per water bottle. This will be the foundation for Scandic Sustainability Fund, a newly established fund aimed at supporting initiatives which in various ways actively contribute to a more sustainable society. Scandic has earlier taken the decision to reduce fossil carbon dioxide emissions by removing all bottled mineral water from its hotels. Up to now, the hotel chain has sold a couple of million 33 cl bottles of mineral water a year. Instead, from this autumn Scandic will be filling and selling its own specially designed bottles of filtered and chilled water, still and sparkling."

(How about just letting people run their own water from the hotel tap? That's what I usually do if I travel - I fill up my bottles and let them cool during the night. Bottles get reused, though unfortunately they don't survive security checks these days. I probably need to buy myself a proper canteen for traveling; something that can travel in the checked luggage. Here's a business idea: someone start selling eco-themed canteens, please? You could ride on the anti-bottled water wave, and I would buy one right away. It needs to look cool, and be durable and easily portable. And expensive enough so that you don't just throw it away.)

Friday, 03-Oct-08 10:32
Oh please

My foreign readers might not have heard about this, but a Lappish newspaper, Lapin Kansa, fired their editor-in-chief for being gay. Needless to say, this has created an uproar, including Facebook groups calling for boycott on the Alma Media group, owner of the newspaper, who allegedly offered 100,000 euros to the person in question to keep their mouth shut and just resign. Alma Media is a large media corporation in Finland, with a number of local newspapers and internet services. By the way, if you have your blog on Vuodatus.net, you are using Alma Media's blogging platform.

Anyhoo, normally this is one person's word against someone else's - but frankly, all the discussion around this is really clearly showing that not all is well in the State of Lapland. To quote the vicar of Simo (translation mine):

Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE) does not get praise from the Laestadians. It claimed that Lapland is in the "heart of darkness", since gay and lesbian relationships are not approved.

"This was an outrageous attack against the majority. There are not many gays and lesbians, and now they control the entire media. YLE is harnessed to run the lesbo agenda", Lohi fumes.

"Not many"? Lohi himself says that there are about 5000 old-skool Laestadians (a local fundamentalist Christian branch) in Lapland, and maybe 5000 more. Lapland has about 180,000 inhabitants, so that's approximately 5% of population. If you scale this up to entire country, you find maybe 100,000 Laestadians total, for a measly 2% of the population.

Now, it is hard to say exactly how much of the population is homosexual, but different estimates give it between 2-7%. I have even heard the number 10% being thrown around. At any rate, the gay population is actually as large as the Laestadians - probably even bigger. And based on my grantedly limited sample of both, I will much rather carry the flag of the lesbian agenda than these narrow-minded fundamentalist Christian bigots.

Personally I believe this was all about money. These fundamentalists might've stopped ordering the newspaper, if the editor had been gay. Alma Media blundered, and didn't realize that before they hired here. The company did not want to face that potential loss, so they hashed out a "cunning plan", which boiled over when their opponent chose not to play ball. They probably also calculated that any boycott on the gay-agenda-toting-people is less damage than damage from the fundamentalists' boycott, and that the publicity is always good anyway.

Our society is in a phase where money trumps ethic issues. This isn't necessarily bad, mind you, even though it sounds horrible. Because of that, consumers do have power to choose which ethics they want the society turn to, and vote with their wallets - both positively (like Carrot Mobs) and negatively (boycotts). The bad thing obviously is that those who have the money, get to choose the ethics, too, which makes this an unstable system: there are few corrective mechanisms to keep the situation balanced.

Wednesday, 01-Oct-08 18:12
Ombudsman calls for chat room censorship

From Helsingin Sanomat: "Ombudsman Johanna Suurpää says that if administrators and chat room moderators don't voluntarily step in to curb inappropriate discussions, then the law should be changed to require them to do so ... "Even though the Internet could never be fully controlled, this is not enough of a reason to do nothing," she days."

...right. Where do these people come from?

Don't they realize that what is already illegal in the regular public place is illegal on the internet as well? Certain kinds of verbal abuse (like libel) should just simply be reported to the police and let them deal with it. The law is there, and it is same for everyone. Heck, we pay an inordinate amount of taxes so that we don't even have to pay the police to do their job!

However, when private corporations are forced to decide what is "acceptable speech", we're going down the slippery slope and fast. Freedom means that every single site must have the ability to decide on their own what kind of discussions they tolerate. If you don't like their policy, you can go elsewhere. If someone goes over the line, you talk first to the admins, and if they don't do anything, you can always go to the police.

Now, I don't mind the law saying that "complaints from the users must be taken seriously". That highlights the responsibility of the maintainers, and should probably make them think a bit. But if the law says that all the maintainers need to proactively start censoring discussion based on their interpretation of the law - then we're no longer in a free country. Especially since there is no longer a clear line between public and private on the internet: if something is visible to only your friends, is it a public discussion? Can the moderators step in and censor things then? What if you have a hundred friends? Ten? One?

The only way a moderator can be sure that nothing illegal is going on in his system is to read all the private messages as well. This includes person-to-person messages; personal emails; everything. There would be no more online privacy, but your innermost thoughts would be read and evaluated for "appropriateness" by a stranger with no or little training, and small pay.

And that is simply too high a price to pay for a bit of temporary peace of mind.

In a free country, punishment follows crime. Let's keep it that way.

Monday, 29-Sep-08 11:48
Teh win!

Got electricity bill today, and I'm happy: 20% reduction in total electricity usage from last year. I'm not quite sure what helped, but I think that figuring out how I use my computers was a major factor. We now keep them off (or in hibernation) most of the time when they're not used, and my desktop just wakes up at night to run remote backups, after which it shuts itself off again. You can save a surprising amount of energy by spending an hour or two twiddling the computer power-management setup. Also, using laptops more (now that we have two) probably also contributes quite a lot: a typical laptop takes about what, one fifth of the power of a regular desktop computer (60W vs 350W)?

The in-house sauna also lost some of its novelty value, and we cut down on using it to maybe two-three times a month. This was also probably the other major power-saving.

Now, I know we can do better this year, though the upcoming kid is going to make it difficult. What I would like to do is to have better measurements with immediate feedback. I know there are already companies offering that, but it seems to be quite sluggish to get the equipment installed when you're living in an apartment block...

Thursday, 25-Sep-08 12:27
Artic methane already escaping?

This, if true, could change everything about our global climate catastrophy.

In the past few days, the researchers have seen areas of sea foaming with gas bubbling up through "methane chimneys" rising from the sea floor. They believe that the sub-sea layer of permafrost, which has acted like a "lid" to prevent the gas from escaping, has melted away to allow methane to rise from underground deposits formed before the last ice age.

They have warned that this is likely to be linked with the rapid warming that the region has experienced in recent years.

Methane is about 20 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide and many scientists fear that its release could accelerate global warming in a giant positive feedback where more atmospheric methane causes higher temperatures, leading to further permafrost melting and the release of yet more methane.

The amount of methane stored beneath the Arctic is calculated to be greater than the total amount of carbon locked up in global coal reserves so there is intense interest in the stability of these deposits as the region warms at a faster rate than other places on earth.

A feedback loop. That's geek-talk for the same thing which causes the horrendous wailing when you put a mic close to a loudspeaker. You could also call it a chain reaction - just like an avalance or a nuclear bomb: a small problem rapidly grows really big, and there is no stopping it.

This problem cannot be solved anymore by recycling your banana peels. It needs law and legislation, threats and carrots from the highest authorities in every country.

Really, really fast.

(Via BB.)

Wednesday, 24-Sep-08 23:59
PGP sigs anyone?

I'm in need for some signatures for my new PGP key. If you want to trade signatures, and know me personally, call/email me.

If someone happens to know any key signing parties nearby, that would help too.

Sunday, 21-Sep-08 13:14
Small open source & corporations & communities rant

Y'know, there are loads of companies out there who do "get" open source. Even big ones, like IBM, Sun or even Nokia. I don't mean that everything they do is or should be Free or Open Source Software (FOSS), but when they choose to use or support open source for business reasons, they are savvy enough to understand how FOSS works, participate in the community, give back stuff which benefits everyone and in general work together with the project. Doesn't always work, and sometimes they make bad business decisions, but hey, at least the capacity is there.

Then you got the clueless ones.

Some time ago, I was contacted by an unnamed company, who wanted to use JSPWiki as a part of their product. We talked, but in the end, I told them: "It's open source, you can use it - within the license - anyway you want. I can't do any work for you now, but if you do choose to use JSPWiki, do participate in the community so that we can both benefit from each other."

A few days ago I got a letter. In the letter, the company said that they were disappointed in the fact that JSPWiki community didn't show any interest in co-operation, and that they had forked JSPWiki code and made it better, and that they were open sourcing it on their own.

Well... In the months between these two discussions, there were no emails to the community mailing lists, no issues filed by these guys, no patches contributed whatsoever. They apparently made the elementary mistake that you can take the head coder, and assume that this guy speaks for the whole community - just like a program manager would speak for the whole program.

Guess what, buddy? It doesn't work that way. The only way to convince an open source community is by putting money where your mouth is. You start the work, do it with passion, and if there are enough people who like it, you will get a community. There are no shortcuts, no magic. As I said before (in that particular rant/interview), in order to make an open source project to really work, you need two types in the community:

  1. People who do it for the passion. These people provide stability and long-term memory for the project. They may not contribute much code-wise, but they are essential in keeping the community together, keeping the spirit, and providing long-term vision. You can control these people about as much as you can control a herd of cats.
  2. People who do it for the money. These people are hired by corporations to work on a particular piece of the code. They provide the raw thinking power behind a lot of innovations of the system. But they go away, once their thing is done, leaving maintenance to the passionate people.

Sometimes a project is lucky enough to have both types embodied in the same people, which turns its viability up a knob. Many of the infrastructure projects are like this - Linux and Apache being good examples.

But you cannot treat a FOSS project the same way you would treat another company. There is no central person who makes decisions for everyone else, and nobody to make a deal with. You can buy individual developers, and make them take the project in a particular direction, but even then it really comes down to sitting down, rolling up the sleeves and banging out the code and contributing it back to the community.

Because if you don't, and you fork, you are responsible for the maintenance, the bugs, and the everything. And then you lose, because then you pay your own guys for the same stuff as what the project programmers are doing for free. And the further away you drift from the trunk, the more expensive it becomes to follow the community, and the more difficult it will be for you to reverse your decision, because few FOSS projects are interested in taking in patches for an ancient version of the codebase.

And the funny bit is - these guys forked from a version of JSPWiki which was still LGPL. They have no choice but to make it open source, because that is what LGPL says. If they were using the latest version, they could use it under the Apache license, which wouldn't be so restrictive. Though, I have to admit, that the cluelessness which has been shown so far might mean that they haven't even realized that they don't have a choice. I've had earlier problems with them not sticking to the LGPL license terms. I'd hate it if I had to go and bang them with a lawyer-shaped cluestick.

Frankly, while they say that they are going to open source their own fork, I don't give them much hope for success. Their behaviour so far shows that they cannot even talk to an existing community, so how on earth could they create a new community from scratch?

Friday, 19-Sep-08 18:30
New product announcement

In the grand tradition of announcing things before they're ready in the eventual hope of driving the share price up, Team BUNT announces their new project, bringing in exciting new features such as two self-contained propulsion units, two fine-motoric grappling apparatuses, self-aware expert system, automatic waste disposal unit, binaural audio processing, and internal power plant with a wide range of acceptable fuels.

We expect to deliver this product by 1Q2009. While the feature set is complete, we are currently finetuning the product and planning for delivery and maintenance. Thank you for your patience.

(Frankly, I'm half giddy, half scared, half worried, half relieved and half unable to count. Oh well. I am genetically wired to eat, poop and reproduce. Since the two others seem to work okay, I think I can handle this one too.

All already-dads out there are free to snicker in the comment section.)

Thursday, 18-Sep-08 16:36
USA to get unlimited access at personal history of Norwegians

Eh? WTF? Since when did Norway become a protectorate of the US? From Swedish Television News (translation mine):

"After seven years, agreement between USA and Norway is almost complete. Once the agreement is signed, CIA gains access to email addresses, travel histories, mobile numbers and internet logs."

The article is vague about under which conditions the information can be shared - but if Norway, a relatively sane Nordic country succumbs to this, then you can pretty much assume that CIA can read your email, too - with the blessings of your government. The Swedes already have their own FRA-law, which allows the Swedish military to monitor your emails and surfing habits already. Finland will surely fall flat on their faces as well - except that under the administration, this will surely not be told in public. Perhaps this is the reason why our Minister of Information, Suvi Linden is not so keen to condemn the acts of the Swedish authorities - she is perfectly aware that Finns are doing the exact same thing: listening on their own citizens and selling that information to the US. Would make sense and wouldn't surprise me at all.

This makes me very angry.

(Via Piraattiliitto.)

Tuesday, 16-Sep-08 01:20
IP address switch

The IP address of this server is changed. You might see some oddities because of it, but thanks to the magic which is mod_proxy I don't believe that it should be a problem to most people.

Otherwise, I'm pretty much so jetlagged now that I can barely keep my brain straight... I've got things to blog about, but it's just that they need a bit more than what I can give now.

Damn, microblogging really is making blogging more difficult.

Thursday, 11-Sep-08 18:17
O'Reilly Ignite! in Boston tonight

I'll be popping into the Ignite! event tonight. Ping me if you're coming too, or say hi...

Whee, my first Ignite! Maybe some day I'll dare to speak in one of these :-)

Tuesday, 09-Sep-08 23:54
Blue Fun

I usually like to visit theatre shows whenever I travel. Strange, that, because I usually rarely go to any shows in Helsinki.

Anyhoo, I stumbled upon the Blue Man Group while looking for something to see - and boy, was I not disappointed. I was laughing out loud even before the show had started...

Highly recommended - the videos in the referenced site just don't pay any justice to the experience itself.

Sunday, 07-Sep-08 16:04
Ambient Awareness - or what happens when you no longer are disconnected with anyone?

Clive Thompson's piece about ambient awareness. Well put together.

Sunday, 07-Sep-08 13:39
Finnish rocket launch success!

Congrats to the team!. Now that is rocket science! :-)

(Via.)

Saturday, 06-Sep-08 22:05
Kiitokset bloggaajille

Marikoo ja Visukintun jämät.
(English summary: Had a great bloggers gettogether. Thanks all! Beer, 1.5h of sleep, and flight to Boston.)

Olipa taasen mukava tavata bloggaajia, niin tuttuja kuin tuntemattomia. Sun äitis listaa onnistuneesti paikallaolijat (missä välissä nuo kaikki siellä olivat?), joskin ainakin tapaamani Sudet Tulevat puuttuu joukosta. Poissaolijoista ainakin Lord Boredomia kaipailtiin ääneen.

Erityiskiitokset sille tunnistamattomaksi jääneelle naishenkilölle, joka kanssani hetken aikaa keskusteltuani kysyi: "ai sä oot naimisissa"? Myönnettyäni hän katsoi minua hetken ja sanoi "Sääli." Kovasti kohteliasta ja tuli hyvä mieli. Kiitokset myös herra Vitille neuvoista, ja rva Haltia-Holmbergille hyvästä ja antoisasta keskustelusta.

(Ja huhuista huolimatta en edelleenkään aio järjestää miesbloggaajien "paras perse" -kisaa.)

Puolitoista tuntia unta ja nyt Bostonissa, pää täynnä räkää.

Tuesday, 02-Sep-08 15:37
Security and money

Here's a great quote from Bruce Schneier:

Or take another example: airport security. Assume that all the new airport security measures increase the waiting time at airports by -- and I'm making this up -- 30 minutes per passenger. There were 760 million passenger boardings in the United States in 2007. This means that the extra waiting time at airports has cost us a collective 43,000 years of extra waiting time. Assume a 70-year life expectancy, and the increased waiting time has "killed" 620 people per year -- 930 if you calculate the numbers based on 16 hours of awake time per day. So the question is: If we did away with increased airport security, would the result be more people dead from terrorism or fewer?

As he says, it is very difficult to pin a price on security, or to figure out when you're actually wasting money. And that most of these kinds of "security analyses" are bunk.

Monday, 01-Sep-08 15:14
YTV funnies

Looks like the Helsinki area transport authority (YTV) is already busily upgrading their ticket systems: I've now several times managed to not get my card read, because whenever I flash the card wallet, it just shows the text "*MIFARE*". I need to take the card out of the wallet, and show only that to the reader.

The explanation is that as an old RFID geek I have an Oyster card for London metro (which is a Mifare Classic card), a FeliCa card for Tokyo metro (which is sort similar to Mifare, except it's much more versatile and actually has some non-trivial security), and a bunch of other NFC cards. Previously, this has not been a problem, since they usually all live together nicely (and I like to see when they break), but in this case, it looks like the YTV ticket readers just simply cannot fathom that a person might have some other cards other than the YTV cards.

Since Mifare is a pretty common card (there are what, 500 million of them out there, mostly in public transit and access control - several cities in Finland do use Mifare as well), I would imagine that I'm not the only one who is stymied by the text "*MIFARE*" on the reader. Just putting a Tampere transport card in the same wallet with the Helsinki transport card would do the trick. However, I can at least interpret it - because I happen to have several years of training in the area. I just hope that this is just testing, and that the YTV designers are going to build in a nicer error display in reality. Though, they do not exactly have a great track record in desiging usable interfaces, as all the people who live in the capital area know...

(I will need to check whether this happens for all ISO 14443 cards, though.)

In short: if the reader says "*MIFARE*" to you, just make sure you don't have any other cards nearby. Or your keys, as they might contain Mifare too (heck, I have a wrist watch which contains a Mifare tag...)

Sunday, 24-Aug-08 12:31
Life after people

Finally got around to watching the wonderful Life after people document by the History Channel (got the link from Kasa). It's funny how insignificant all our efforts here seem to be, and - even though this was not mentioned in the document - our longest-lasting objects are now traveling in space, where our corrosive touch cannot reach them anymore.

Tuesday, 19-Aug-08 15:21
Following linkings

Is it just me, or have Technorati, Twingly, Icerocket and Google Blogsearch become completely useless in trying to figure out who is linking to whom? Icerocket finds one reference (which isn't my own) from 533 days ago; Technorati is finding nothing; Twingly just lists my own blog as someone who links to my own blog a lot; and Google Blogsearch is just generically braindead.

On the other hand, following actual referrers says that at least Nokia Conversations is linking to me again, and I get random inflow of traffic from here and there.

Have the spammers won the battle? Is link/trackback spam finally so bad that the baby is finally going out with the bathwater? Is this the end of the great interblogistic discussions (though I am not sure if they ever started)?

Or did the discussion just move to Facebook and Jaiku and Twitter and nobody told me?

Tuesday, 19-Aug-08 08:45
But is it feasible?

Sometimes there is a really large gap between designers and engineers, as pictured in this wonderful scetch from Smack the Pony. While feasibility is the key, it does not necessarily produce good results. You also need to have a bit of sanity in the mix.

Not that I really know whether it's usually the engineers or the designers which are the culprits. I often feel like there's a a huge gap even between engineers.

Thursday, 14-Aug-08 16:39
Revolution/Evolution

Here's a thought which I didn't really have much time to work on... But let's put it here to see if it catches on (and you can substitute the word "process" for "technology" in the following sentences):

When users have something they wish to accomplish, and you develop technology for it - that is evolution.

When you develop technology, and suddenly you have users who want to do something with it, something they couldn't do before - that is revolution.

Revolutionary steps aren't always bigger than evolutionary steps, even though we often think that way. But they in general enable new, interesting venues by jerking loose something which goes above and beyond of what we normally perceive.

I guess this is one of the reasons why it is important to listen to your users, but not do blindly as they suggest. You can only do incremental evolution, but you can never appear at a revolution, if you do. If guys at Xerox PARC had listened to the users, who wanted to have bigger monitors in order to have larger spreadsheets, we wouldn't have windows and icons and pointers these days, which would've kept computing out of regular Joe's hands.

(Of course, there's heck of a lot of technology which is developed and never gets any users, so they hardly count as a revolution.)

Monday, 11-Aug-08 08:50
Disappointed in Bookmooch

OK, there is one reason why Bookmooch sucks. And it's the fact that it seems that most people in it are "willing to send books to their home country only". There is little point to join the service if you're from a small country - no matter how many nice books are out there, you can't get them.

I'm pretty frustrated. It's not that expensive to send economy abroad, you cheap bastards!

Saturday, 09-Aug-08 13:21
The great fallacy of Plup

Vihreä Lanka (in Finnish) writes about the new bottled water called "Plup". They're donating 10 cents for every bottle bought to save the Baltic Sea (which is in a pretty bad shape), so they're advertising it as a "ecological thing to do".

Unfortunately, simple maths shows that they will have to sell about half a million bottles before they're even with the advertising money used so far. Not to mention that the damage to the environment per bottle is more than the the ten cents. Even the bottle is not recyclable. Is there a dissing group I could join? In fact, could somebody please sue these persons for false advertising?

If you care at all about the environment, the simplest thing you can possibly do is not to buy bottled water - and most especially, Plup. Just fill the bottles with tap water (and a dash of lemon, if that's your thing. It is mine.).

(This advice may not be valid in some countries - unless you want to have a close encounter of the porcelaine kind. I really hope this whole Plup thing is a joke.)

Friday, 08-Aug-08 18:21
Streets of Desire

Having been driving around for the past two weeks (rented a car to visit people) and relying on GPS navigation software (Nokia Maps and Navicore, mostly - they suck in different ways, but Nokia Maps is pretty okay for the money, though I still rely on Navicore more)... India and Africa and a lot of other nations have an immense number of streets which are unnamed. This, of course, presents challenges to navigation.

What would happen if Google or Navteq or Tele Atlas or Nokia some other big navi/map provider were to just de facto name the streets? Could they make it stick? Would the locals adopt those names? Could the big corporations, assisted by automatical software and imaging/GPS satellites, keep track of the changing of important public infrastructure better than the local officials?

'cos if these companies are hell-bent on selling everyone navi software and maps - and we all know how picky computers are with names and labels - something's gotta give somewhere.

(Oh yeah, Ropecon. Trying to get there, but still sitting lazily at the computer...)

Wednesday, 06-Aug-08 10:17
Google: "We locked you out of our empire and won't tell why"

This is one of the reasons why I don't want to move all my personal communication to Google (or any other single company for that matter). Remember this the next time you want to outsource your emails and documents.

When it comes down to your personal convenience and corporate policy, the policy wins; and once you start storing your documents in the network, the network will own them in a very concrete sense.

(Via BB.)

Tuesday, 05-Aug-08 22:26
Sampo goes WTF

The trouble with Sampo Bank gets a Daily WTF summary. It certainly qualifies - loss of estimated 20k customers (in a country of five million) due to one of the worst IT upgrade jobs ever is the stuff of legends. It's a story that IT professionals today will tell to their children over campfires, as a warning that some jobs come with too low a paycheck.

Friday, 01-Aug-08 10:28
Run Apple 1 BASIC as a scripting language for OSX, and other cool things

http://www.pagetable.com/. All the nostalgic übergeekery you could possibly want.

Saturday, 26-Jul-08 01:29
The Ground heads for the sky

The son of Levyvirasto, The Ground is here. And I like it.

It's the first, proper Finnish music store. It has a decent, web-based UI which works on my Mac, and it sells me DRM-free MP3s (which work nicely both on my laptop, desktop, iPod and my phone - which cannot be said on the offerings of the iTunes Music Store or the Nokia Music Store) of good quality with a price I'm willing to pay. There's also enough bandwidth - I get a full album in a minute.

There are still some flaws: The UI does not really promote music discovery (I would very much like to see a tie-in with the open APIs of Last.fm, for example), the selection is still not yet quite complete, the download was broken the first time (though it worked flawlessly the second time) and I do believe that Meat Loaf should not be classified as "classical music". But, as a whole, this is the first music store selling major brand music that I can see myself visiting more than once (many of the ones in the US refuse to sell to Europe, unfortunately). Spent 20+ euros in it in a flash (a Poets of the Fall album, a couple of tracks from Pet Shop Boys, and Kylie's X, if you absolutely want to know. Which you probably didn't - but now you know something you didn't know a moment earlier, and that in itself is valuable to realize.)

More of this, please. And preferably in a global scale; the whole notion of limiting music licensing to a single country sounds like exactly the kind of stuff that EU was established to abolish.

Monday, 21-Jul-08 12:25
Duodecim: Illegal drug stores must be censored!

Duodecim, the Finnish Medical Society may be joining the ranks of the people stepping down the slipper slope. Helsingin Sanomat 21.7.2008, page D2:

Tutkimuksen tekijät vaativatkin tiukempaa säätelyä ja valvontaa. Laittomien nettiapteekkien sivuille pääsy pitäisi estää.

(Roughly translated: "Authors of the study demand stricter control and supervision. Access to the web pages of illegal internet drug stores should be blocked.")

The article is unclear as to whether this is Duodecim's opinion or the opinion of the study (which was made by some anonymous private organization, not even named properly in the article, not even on their web site) quoted by Duodecim. Which of course makes it suspicious - anybody know the source of the study? Perhaps they are thinking that the doctor's ethic does not apply to freedom of speech?

(To reiterate: blocking web sites does not block the sales of illegal drugs. They will just switch their websites faster than you can block them. The only way to stop this is to go to the source, and slam those people in jail. The only thing blocking web sites does is that it opens the door to uncontrolled and unreasonable censorship.)

Thursday, 17-Jul-08 20:00
Me and my big mouth

The problem with ranting is that sometimes people listen to you and turn your rants into interviews on the official company blog.

Oh well. Any notoriety is good notoriety, I suppose.

(On a personal note: I've gone on an email diet for the holidays. I read and respond only to the most important, personal emails I get. All others get the backspace key or are ignored until I get back. This also concerns most blogs... I'm trying to concentrate on a small project I've been working on for about a year and a half now, as well as trying to read all the books I've mooched in the last couple of weeks. Nothing personal - I really, really need this.)

Tuesday, 08-Jul-08 17:41
Digital locality and friendship stasis

Dealing with mobile phones and NFC teaches about a few things about your surroundings. A simple way to model the world is to divide it to a few ranges:

  • Proximity - the range of touch. These are the objects that are most immediate to you, both in time and place: the laptop, the chair, your clothes, and so on.
  • Vicinity - the range of things around you which can impact you at a moment's notice. For example, the items in the same room. People don't matter if they're standing outside your room, but when they walk in, you take notice.
  • Shouting distance - Anything you can affect, but typically does not affect you unless you make it so.
  • The world - All the rest.

NFC works purely in the proximity range, but the different technologies we use change the rest. For example, a mobile phone brings anyone in your phonebook to the shouting distance, negating the effects of location.

So does the internet - and people. I've lately noticed how I keep tabs with people whom I know mostly from the digital world, but a lot of the physical world friends I don't keep up nearly as well with. Without a constant trickle of twitter or blog feed these friendships go into a stasis - unpacked the moment we see and we can continue again from where we left off.

So, thinking of the regular spacetime distances, what would be the digital equivalents?

  • Proximity - the people who gave you access to their private feeds, and the people who you have given access to yours. The person you are IMming to right now, or chatting with in IRC, or talking over the phone to. The person who just sent you an email that you have to read.
  • Vicinity - people whom you follow in Twitter or Jaiku or whose blog you've subscribed to. Your Facebook "friends". People whose statuses flow into your browser but you don't feel compelled to keep up to date on every single one of them.
  • Shouting distance - the invisible crowd who follow you in the different social services. Your blog readers who rarely comment, but who might link to you. The people in your address book that you don't call or text or mail.
  • The world - Orkut and all the other services that you never registered to and don't care at all about. As the old maps used to say, "here be Googles".

Of course, these are not static. Someone might pop into your proximity from the shouting distance by sending you an email about a blog post that touched him. Or people can flow out of your vicinity by becoming boring.

It is interesting to note how most of the social services are expanding the "vicinity" area at the cost of the shouting distance or the proximity - they invent new ways for you to concentrate on one thing (moving things out of your proximity field), but on the other hand they allow stuff from the shouting distance to flow in. It's when you start misusing these tools (like making Facebook or Twitter your primary hobby = move it to proximity) you'll start to see the limitations they have.

The question is - what tools are still missing from the different digital ranges? And is this an useful analogy which teaches us some insight into the world? And what to do with the half-eaten jar of Ben&Jerry's Chunky Monkey in my freezer?

Tuesday, 08-Jul-08 09:31
One-post-wonder

Heh. Here's something that gets pretty close to blog art - One Post Wonder, a collection of blogs who've only ever gotten just a single entry out.

Each entry starts someone's life story, and then it leaves you hanging for more. And you're never gonna get it.

(Via The Internet Superstar.)

Monday, 07-Jul-08 23:20
Moochin'

I finally got tired of duplicate books and stuff that I never read again anyway, and joined Bookmooch. It's almost like going to the flea market - within minutes, the local old hats have you surrounded and grab all the stuff worth something. Within four hours, I got half of my wares mooched; then when I added some more, I got four more.

So I've spent a couple of days going to the post office, wondering what the best way to mail books are, and learning about the cheapest ways to mail stuff. I am also desperately trying to think which authors I really want to mooch...

Let me know if there are any must-read books out there these days, preferably not related to IT. SF is fine, but some new acquaintances might be nice.

Monday, 30-Jun-08 19:48
Ubicomp, and why I think it's broken

A discussion (well, more of a rant) in Teemu's blog warrants repeat here - why I think the traditional vision of ubicomp, that is, the Internet of Things and the Smart Spaces is broken.

You see, I think that intelligence is relative. You feel stupid when you're with people who're smarter than you, but you could rule the land if you were the only person in a village of idiots. Kinda like social status or wealth - you don't have to be rich: it's enough to have more money than your neighbour.

The thing is, that when you make the space around you smarter, you make the people more stupid. And most people just don't like that. For example, I sometimes like to stay late in the office ('cos it's nice and quiet). The automatic system does not see me moving around, so it shuts off the lights and air conditioning. So you have to go an push a button or run around the corridor and wave your hands, hoping that the system will pick it up. And I just hate that.

People want to feel smarter, and in control. When you are overwhelmed with choice, you feel stupid. When you have five options, you can weigh them in your mind, and make a choice which you feel happy about - you feel both smart and in control. Apple gets this - the reason why iPhone is so cool is because it makes you feel powerful and in control as an user: you understand the options (no geekery involved), you can use it with ease, and you get to go wherever you want. Granted, your array of choice is limited, but that only exists so that you can feel smarter.

Mobile phones are an extension of you these days. Jan Chipchase notes that most people are very Maslowian: they carry means to a shelter (their keys); means to purchase food (money or credit cards); and means to connect to their circle of people (their cell phone). They give you power over bad weather, hunger or loneliness.

So I believe that the logical extension of putting smartness are the things that you carry with you. The idea of "googling for your keys" is alluring, but that does not warrant a full-scale smartification of the entire world. It's much easier to make the keys smarter so that they can talk to you and let you know where they are - not Google.

Same goes with money: it's increasingly becoming smarter. The chip cards are essentially small microcomputers of roughly the same scale as a Commodore 64 (though about 20 times faster).

One of the things about Near Field Communication that really fascinates me is how it takes the money and keys and puts them into your mobile phone. So it's real convergence of the most important things that most people carry. But more importantly, it's something which does not require the environment to become smarter. It makes you smarter because you have the power to use the mobile phone in any way you want.

The second big reason why the ubicomp vision is broken is cost.

Building infrastructure costs money. Maintaining infrastructure costs money. Making your environment smarter means that it needs to have maintenance. Yes, it can be smart and call a repairmain to come by - but as long as it's not a legal citizen, it can't pay for the repairs. So who's going swipe the cards?

Is it really ubiquitous, if it works only in very selected patches of the world where people can afford it?

However, consider your personal electronics - like the mobile phone. You get a new one every two years. The carriers will essentially force one down your throat. It's got more power than a turn-of-the-century PC. It's already with you. It's connected almost everywhere (third world countries and USA notwithstanding ;-). You get immediate, concrete, even life-saving benefit from carrying one around. The infra is already laid down, there is no need to bootstrap. Corporations are making loads of money from the infrastructure - but would they make money out of googling for your keys?

Personally, I think the iPhones and Androids and Limos and Nokias of the world have a lot more claim to the ubiquitous computing vision than the internet-of-things folks. They're already connected, and they're everywhere.

The third thing that I find broken in the whole thing is how the human factor has been cut from the equation. Yes, it is said to transform our lives, but I've yet to hear one good reason what exactly would make two home appliances want to talk to each other? And note - I am specifically saying want. Because at the moment, they don't want anything. They do as they are told, without any personality or desires. We need to figure out what a toaster wants (and not ask the one in Red Dwarf) to understand why they would need to network - and if they do, why aren't they talking to me instead of each other?

Yeah, I know that sounds weird. But consider this: we already speak of cars like "it has a tendency to understeer" or "why won't it go?" We are attaching emotions to things which don't have them - and does that not create them? Does it matter if they have any, if we treat them like they had?

Because in the end, it's my life, and all this stuff should be out there to make my life easier, more bearable, and in general nicer. And of course, all my fellow human beings.

(Ha, the lights went out while I was writing this. Damn you, smart environment! I am still here!)

P.S. Yes, I understand the desire behind the ubiquitous computing. I'm just saying that I think it's just mostly harmless tinkering, until either of the two things happen:

  1. the Singularity arrives, or
  2. someone figures out a really good business case for it and can solve all of the logistics issues around it.

My cynical self says to bet for option 1. Until then, I think it's just better to help you become smarter, which in turn makes the environment dumber.

Monday, 30-Jun-08 16:54
OFFSystem gives lawyers and law-makers new headaches

The problem with geeks and law is that geeks are way better and faster in interpreting reality than lawyers are in interpreting laws. Here's a good example - the Owner-Free Filing system.

The OFFSystem is a distributed file system (essentially creating a huge disk drive where you can put whatever content you want, and everyone else using the same system can see that content, too) - but what is interesting is that it is really stabbing at the heart of copyright as defined.

You see, it does not store encrypted data. It stores numbers, and it uses the same numbers to store many different kinds of data. So the question is - whether the store in itself is copyrighted or not? Yes, the act of fetching a file from the store may be illegal in some jurisdictions, since that may end up in a copyrighted work for which you do not have legal permission to use, but the store itself contains only numbers, from which it is impossible to figure out what the content actually is. So, in a way, while no actual copying of copyrighted content ever takes place, you could still be infringing someone's copyright. Just another example why the word "copy" in copyright means nothing in the digital age.

The legal system has been wrestling with the concept of whether offering .torrent -files is illegal, since they don't contain any copyrighted content - but they might point to copyrighted content - and if Pirate Bay is illegal, why isn't Google? (Since really the easiest way to find stuff these days is to go and type "xxx-movie torrent" in Google.)

OFFSystem and its likes (like Tahoe) are going to cause way more interpretation problems that Bittorrent ever did. And, while the courts are chewing on that, there's four-five years of time to invent something completely new.

Copyright is badly broken, out of touch with reality, and needs to be fixed.

Picture the song as this, but much longer.

24332984303829732498…398724

Now there are two other numbers that may be of interest, depending upon how you interpret them. Consider the following big numbers:

11230243302314110327…264211
and
12102741001515622171…134513

Then consider adding them together.

Are these numbers copyrighted? Can I store them on two separate computers? Would that break the law? What if they were never added together? Would their existence still break the law?

What if I give you two other numbers? Again, and again.

There are two consistent ways to answer the above questions. One leads to the conclusion that “All numbers are copyrighted.” The other leads to the conclusion that, “There exists encodings of copyrighted number that are NOT copyrighted.”

If the first conclusion is true, digital copyright is pointless. If the second is true digital copyright is meaningless.

(Via Slashdot)

(By the way - using the OFFSystem technology, you could make every song to be a copy of Never gonna give you up - all you would need to supply the mathematical difference between a song and the Rick Astley piece. So if you're a copyright lawyer, I suggest you grab your maths book or hire your friendly neighbourhood geek to explain all this.)

Edit: Also read this wonderful piece about the Colour of bits, and why the colour matters.

Wednesday, 25-Jun-08 10:12
EU wants to regulate bloggers to stifle "unfair competition"

Whooooooo boy. Pissing off several tens of millions of people is really smart, Ms. Mikko.

This report (English, Finnish version here) drafted by Estonian MEP Marianne Mikko details how bloggers, those pesky creatures, are unfairly providing free content to consumers, thus stifling competition with the real media providers and how blogs could be used for evil, which why they should be regulated. Witness the following, highly enlightening quotes:

M. whereas commercial publications are increasingly utilising user-generated content, especially audiovisual content for a nominal fee, raising questions of unfair competition among media professionals,"

...

N. whereasthe increased use and reliance on user generated content may adversely affect the privacy of citizens and public figures by creating conditions of permanent surveillance,

...

O. whereas weblogs are an increasingly common medium for self-expression by media professionals as well as private persons, the status of their authors and publishers, including their legal status, is neither determined nor made clear to the readers of the weblogs, causing uncertainties regarding impartiality, reliability, source protection, applicability of ethical codes and the assignment of liability in the event of lawsuits,

...

P. whereas the Member States have widescope for interpreting the remit of the public service media and its financing and whereas the commercial media has expressed concerns over unfair competition,

...

9. Suggests clarifying the status, legal or otherwise, of weblogs and encourages their voluntary labelling according to the professional and financial responsibilities and interests of their authors and publishers;

...

In this context the report points out that the undetermined and unindicated status of authors and publishers of weblogs causes uncertainties regarding impartiality, reliability, source protection, applicability of ethical codes and the assignment of liability in the event of lawsuits.
It recommends clarification of the legal status of different categories of weblog authors and publishers as well as disclosure of interests and voluntary labelling of weblogs. The report acknowledges the spreading use for a nominal fee of user-generated content by the commercial publications and the privacy and competition issues this generates. It recommends compensating non-professionals commensurately to the commercial value they generate and using ethical codes to protect the privacy of citizens and public figures.

Well, boo-hoo. Finland has this wonderful saying of "the responsibility is entirely on the listener's side". Simple maths should show you that this is a completely inane idea: there are tens of millions of blogs in Europe. Most of them are pseudonymous. Most of them are written by people who write to their friends. Do you actually think they would care at all about what EU says?

While I do sort of understand the concern that some media outlets are using user-generated content without any regard to copyright (which should be addressed), I am entirely happy to share my content for free (you just need to observe the SA bit of the CC license). If that disrupts your business model, you might want to think of a new one instead of going to your MEP to cry and demand that it is unfair competition. Heck, I'm not competing with you. I am ignoring you.

Ms. Mikko seems to have bought the "citizenship journalism" -line with the hook and sinker, too. While some bloggers could be considered journalists, most of them simply aren't. So treating all weblogs like they were should be pretty much a non-starter. And considering that the definition of a weblog is so vague, there is no choice except to make sure that all content online would be regulated in the same way.

Which, while I am sure it would be the wet dream of any pencil-pushing bureucrat, will not happen. Even China can't do it.

I guess what really pisses me off about this memo is the idea behind it - that the media is so important we can't leave it to amateurs, since they might produce crap and we couldn't know who paid them to do so!

Yeah, the last point seems to also be quite important: the EU is worried of bloggers whose agenda is "not known". So what if people are not just saying their personal opinions? Of course it's unethical if they don't tell people, but hey - everybody lies. Should we have legislation on telling lies in the pub as well - that telling a pretty lady you're really an engineer even though you claim you're a fighter pilot?

The motives of a blogger don't matter much, because bandwidth is unlimited. Yes, the motives of the main TV news channel do matter, because TV is a controlled, restricted, serial medium. The internet isn't. Anybody can say anything (barring copyright, NDAs and libel), so if you're speaking bullshit, and you matter, you will have ten blogs shooting you down. But nobody is going to give you airtime on the telly if you oppose the channel policy.

As to the urging to increase media literacy in EU - that's the smartest suggestion I've seen in the entire paper. I suggest Ms. Mikko takes the first course, so she can see what the difference between an unknown pseudonym blogging about her dog, a media blogger, and a newspaper is.

(I'll leave the privacy issue untouched - running out of time to rant...)

(Thanks to Piraattiliitto.)

Tuesday, 24-Jun-08 14:43
Another restaurant fails clue roll

The Internets and the fact that consumers have power these days still seems to escape some business owners. Mikko Eerola tested a local Latin American eatery called "Nuevo Latino", and wrote a review to eat.fi as well as to Jaiku. Unlike the other reviewers, he didn't much like the experience; just stated that he felt the food was good though overpriced and that the waiters were rude. So nothing very unusual in Helsinki. Could've been a bad day in the restaurant, too.

The story gets interesting when the restaurant owner sent an angry email (English) to Mr. Eerola, claiming that his bad review "sounded like defamation", and that his emails "will be reported as fraud" that they "will be in the obligation to take legal actions should this behaviour continue." Also, the restaurant contacted the Peruvian embassy, which in turn contacted Mr. Eerola's wife (who's from Peru and has nothing to do with the whole thing) "who should know better".

Fail.

Of course, he blogged about the letter (Finnish), and now the whole thing is blowing over the top. Newspapers are writing about it, bloggers are writing about it, and most people just simply condemn the behaviour of the restaurant, and consider them to be a bit silly and self-destructive.

Others, well... Suffice to say that at least one anonymous moron is now at Mikko Eerola's blog comment section spouting things that could very well be construed as death threats.

Obviously, I'm not going to go to that restaurant; and neither will I take any relatives, friends, or business associates to it. Bad food and service I can forgive. Threating people (with lawsuits or violence) who just simply voice their opinion I can't.

Update: Looks like the situation is resolved peacefully, the restaurant has apologized, blaming the individual efforts of two staff members.

Sunday, 22-Jun-08 23:29
Guy sells his life on eBay

I know this is old news, but the auction is on right now!

Just to refresh your memory: Ian Usher in Perth, Australia decided to sell his entire life. Yes, including friends and the job. He says:

"On the day it is all sold and settled I intend to walk out of my front door with my wallet in one pocket and my passport in the other, nothing else at all, and get on the train, with no idea where I am going or what the future holds for me."

The house looks decent, the place is pretty spectacular (with the Aussie lifestyle, too). No wonder the current bid is already - less than 24 hours of starting - at 2.2 Million AUD (~1.3 M€).

Perth is pretty much far, far away from everywhere, though.

Thursday, 19-Jun-08 23:53
The universal edit button

A few guys got together and built a "universal edit button" - essentially a small Firefox plugin that lets you know that you can change the content of a web page.

It's a good idea, and I hope it becomes so commonplace you don't really need a browser plugin anymore. Just like the RSS logo you see if you're browsing this site with any relatively modern browser.

JSPWiki will support this in version 2.8, out "soon". You can already test it at the JSPWiki sandbox. Other small wikis are following suite, like, oh, Wikipedia. Adding it to your JSPWiki installation is easy; just put the following in your templates/default/commonheader.jsp:

<%-- Support for the universal edit button (www.universaleditbutton.org) --%>
<wiki:CheckRequestContext context='view|info|diff|upload'>
  <wiki:Permission permission="edit">
    <wiki:PageType type="page">
    <link rel="alternate" type="application/x-wiki" 
          href="<wiki:EditLink format='url' />"
          title="<fmt:message key='actions.edit.title'/>" />
    </wiki:PageType>
  </wiki:Permission>
</wiki:CheckRequestContext>

More at readwriteweb.

Wednesday, 18-Jun-08 07:38
Tip: Firefox 3 download

In case you're trying to download Firefox 3, and are finding (among everyone else) that the mozilla.com servers are completely unresponsive due to the load, you can go directly to the distribution repository at http://releases.mozilla.org/pub/mozilla.org/firefox/releases/3.0/, and choose your operating system first, and then the language.

Saturday, 14-Jun-08 21:38
Siika

(Warning, obscure Finnish humor follows.)

So, these guys managed to get a whitefish of respectable size while icefishing last winter, and put the experience on Youtube. It simmers there for a while, just watched by friends. The unbridled joy of getting a whitefish of almost two kilograms is shared by few.

Aaand then someone makes a remix of that experience with a soundtrack.

And then a Muumi remake follows.

And then there was radioplay.

And, if my magic 8-ball is right, all signs point to yes, there will be more.

Thursday, 12-Jun-08 09:42
Phoenix landing

For some reason, this video makes me very happy every time I watch it. It's always nice to see hair-raising tension get relieved in joy and laughter.

(The video is a HD quality log of the seven minutes it takes for a Mars-bound spacecraft to decelerate from interplanetary speeds to zero. So many things could go wrong with it.)

Monday, 09-Jun-08 17:11
Back to civilization

Ha! With the new job, comes relocation. Out of the engineering pits of Pitäjänmäki into the civilized Ruoholahti I go, and whistle as I walk.

The fact that I will save an hour of commute every day is going to make wonders to my mental health.

Lunch, anyone?

Sunday, 08-Jun-08 22:51
Some nice TED talks

I find that TED talks is probably the most interesting video podcast out there. Here are a couple of my latest favourites:

Saturday, 31-May-08 22:19
Oh, my word!

So, just finished the last episode with the 2nd Doctor. Far more action than with the first one, but the second doctor, Patrick Troughton, just didn't seem to quite fit the role. The stories, however, seemed to be better overall. The last one - War Games - was actually pretty good, I thought.

Too bad so many of the episodes are missing.

Now started to watch the first episodes with the Third Doctor, Jon Pertwee. I'm shocked - it's in color!

Thursday, 29-May-08 08:19
Day changed their rules

I recently complained about the Day JCR Cup and their "we'll steal your software" -competition rules. Well, the friendly folks at Day saw my post and revised the rules, and even posted a note to my blog. It was not their intention to be so exclusive, and somebody screwed up, but now all is well again.

Thanks, folks! Great work!

It just highlights even more the need to read the licenses and rules carefully and complain, if you think they are incorrect. As with the Finnish Blogilista, some companies actually do respond to user feedback, and are willing to do the right thing (whereas others will ignore you, and others will even post excuses and insults to your blog). And this goes to the company employees as well: Many times the rules are drafted by lawyers, who do not necessarily understand the technology or your intents, no matter how good they are. So you just need to be vigilant and catch them in action, and correct these things before they go out.

Tuesday, 27-May-08 20:46
Funny as hell, if you're ancient

Does anybody else find it funny that the new addition to the International Space Station is called Kibo?

Monday, 26-May-08 20:17
Tweet

Social pressure (and curiosity) got me. I now have a Twitter account - ecyrd. Feel free to follow me around...

(What's a good S60 client for Twitter?)

Monday, 26-May-08 17:11
Finnish court says: CSS is effective, and watching DVDs on Linux is illegal (in practice)

In a rather surprising move, the Helsinki Court of Appeal turned the previous District Court decision that the DVD encryption algorithm called "CSS" is not efficient. Therefore programs like VLC, which contain the reverse-engineered algorithm and are able to play back DVDs, are illegal.

An appeal is already in process.

Of course, this is a strange decision since nobody is going to care about it and continue using their favourite DVD watching program anyway... Our courts tend to do these sort of strange decisions these days. Obviously, the police does not care as they have real issues to solve - but I am afraid that these kinds of decisions about unenforceable laws are going to pave way to "copyright police", private organizations funded by the media industry companies, with powers beyond the police, who won't be accountable to the public - only their shareholders.

Will corporate fascism be the flashpoint of the next World War?

Monday, 26-May-08 13:46
More license fun

You know, reading rules and EULAs is pretty important these days. Lately, there was a lot of discussion in the Finnish blogosphere about a Finnish blog aggregator claiming that they can reuse your blog content at will, if you use their service (which they changed pretty rapidly once the bloggers started complaining - nevertheless I find it rather worrying that they chose to try to smuggle it in anyway).

I got recently an invitation to the Day software JCR Cup 2008. I was considering trying to port JSPWiki to use their JCR implementation (as it would be fun and beneficial for everybody), but a quick look at the rules convinced me otherwise:

With regard to an entry you submit as part of the Contest, you grant Day a worldwide, perpetual, fully paid-up, exclusive license to make, sell, or use the technology related thereto, including but not limited to the software, algorithms, techniques, concepts, etc., associated with the entry.

The words "exclusive" and "associated with the entry" are the key ingredients here: The way I read this is that "If you do anything with our software, and make the mistake of submitting it to our contest, WE OWN IT AND MAKE LOTS OF MONEY WITH IT AND YOU CAN'T DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT, NYAH!"

It also means that there's no way I could ever submit JSPWiki+JCR combo into this competition, since I don't own the copyright of the full JSPWiki code base anymore, so I couldn't possibly even abide by the rules (as it most certainly would be "associated", but it's not my code). Besides, that kind of contest rules put a real damper on any ideas I might have. This kind of a thing is most likely targeted at a young hacker audience, who just want the Macbook Pro. But I'd save the real innovations for other competitions...

Of course companies can do any sort of competitions they want. Let this be just an example as to why it is a good thing to read and understand the competition rules before participating... Or you might end up doing something you regret.

Tuesday, 20-May-08 12:12
Using Facebook for what it was meant to

Heh. I got a chuckle out of the Facebook Widsets Pets application: you can create your own virtual pet out of yourself and have your friends take care of it.

You get to take virtual care of a picture of someone you once knew in a service mostly concerned about non-existent things like vampires. If it were any more redundant, it would create a perfect vacuum and make the universe implode.

Needless to say, I signed up immediately.

(Yeah, it's a Nokia app, so my ravings need to be taken with a pinch of salt. But I still think it's wonderfully bonkers ;-)

Sunday, 18-May-08 23:55
Splendid, my dear boy

Doctor Who is as much a classic as SciFi TV could ever be. It's been running on and off since 1963, which I guess is some sort of a record. I've seen the new series, but I don't think the old ones have ever been shown in Finnish TV before. Now, the MTV3 SciFi channel has been showing all episodes (well, those which still exist, anyway), and I've been recording and watching them all.

And you know, I'm starting to see why this has been running so long. Though the effects are crappy, and you can fast-forward through an episode at 6x speed and cuts are still further apart than in your average TV show today, the writing is, well, oddly fresh.

The Second Doctor is now on, and I sort of miss the grumpy First Doctor, though at first I hated him (Outi says he's got Charisma 3). Still, Mr. Ecclestone (Doctor #9) is the favourite.

My only problem is that the channel is showing the episodes in such a rapid succession, that it's really difficult to keep watching them. The hard drive of my PVR is filling up at an alarming rate... You know, one or two episodes a week would be a good speed. The current flood of two episodes per night five times a week means that if you miss a few, it's really hard to catch up.

Heh, first I complain that there's no SF in the TV - and now I'm complaining getting too much of it. Things have really changed in ten years when we got new episodes of Babylon 5 shipped via UPS to Finland as they were being aired... Could it be a sign that my generation has become "the establishment" which is getting pampered and exploited for a quick buck? Heck, they've got the money and they grew up with SciFi, so...?

Not that I'm complaining.

Just wondering.

Sunday, 18-May-08 16:29
Programmers are a strange bunch

OK, here's a weird bit: Every time when I think of the word "programmer", I think of people in white coats walking in the aisles between huge towers of very old computers, doing programming by turning knobs and dials.

I have no idea where I got this mental image from - but there it is.

I also think I'm coming down with the flu. But our kitchen project is advancing. Which is nice, since I'm already getting a bit tired of living without one.

Thursday, 15-May-08 20:14
Eben Moglen vs Tim O'Reilly

Any Web 2.0 believer simply needs to listen to Eben Moglen chewing Tim O'Reilly's butt.

Eben Moglen believes that Web 2.0 is a bunch of ballyhoo by self promoters. ... Over the last ten years, Moglen says, we've only talked about open source software and not ever thought seriously about the freedom of use while allowing monopolies to be created.

Mr. Moglen is the former lawyer and board member of the Free Software Foundation, and has some very important things to say.

Wednesday, 14-May-08 09:17
ESA recruiting new astronauts

If you fancy a really high-flying career, the European Space Agency is looking for new candidate astronauts.

The ideal European astronaut candidate should be competent in relevant scientific disciplines, including but not restricted to life sciences, physics, chemistry and medicine and/or be an engineer or pilot, and should have demonstrated outstanding abilities in research, applications or the educational field, preferably including operational skills.
Monday, 12-May-08 22:11
Blogilista, mitvit?

Lainaanpa uudistuneen Blogilistan käyttöehtoja, lihavointi minun:

Rekisteröityessään Palveluun tai muuten käyttäessään Palvelua Käyttäjä vakuuttaa tutustuneensa näihin Käyttöehtoihin ja sitoutuu noudattamaan niitä kaikessa Palvelun käytössä.

Siis suomeksi: jos edes käyt blogilista.fi:ssä kurkkaamassa, miltä se näyttää, niin kaikki allaoleva pätee.

Palvelun sisältämän materiaalin tekijän-, teollis- ja muut suojatut oikeudet ovat Palveluntarjoajalla tai sen sopimuskumppaneilla. Käyttäjän toimittaman materiaalin tekijänoikeus säilyy Käyttäjällä edellyttäen, että Käyttäjälle voi voimassaolevan lainsäädännön perusteella syntyä tekijänoikeus kyseiseen materiaaliin. Palveluntarjoajalla on kuitenkin oikeus käyttää (ml. linkittää) ja julkaista uudelleen korvauksetta, muunneltuna tai alkuperäisessä muodossaan, Käyttäjän Palvelussa tai sen kautta julkistamaa aineistoa Palvelussa ja sen markkinoinnissa sekä Palveluntarjoajan ja sen kanssa kulloinkin samaan konserniin kuuluvien yritysten tiedonvälitys-, pr- tai muussa liiketoiminnassa.

Eli kun olet käynyt kerran blogilista.fi:ssä, niin Sanoma Digital saa tehdä blogisi sisällöllä mitä huvittaa parantaakseen omaa bisnestään. Vaikka blogisi olisi lisännyt listalle joku toinen.

Just.

Tähän ei voi muuta kuin todeta vain seuraavaa:

"Tätä blogia lukemalla sinä ("LUKIJA") vapautat minut, niin omasta kuin työnantajasi puolesta, kaikista mahdollisista ei-neuvotelluista lisensseistä, sopimuksista, läpiklikatuista (clickthrough) lisensseistä, käyttöehdoista, kilpailukielloista ja salassapitovelvoitteista ("HUMPUUKISOPIMUS"), joihin olen mahdollisesti sitoutunut omasta, työnantajasi, heidän sopimuskumppaniensa, lisensoijiensa, agenttiensa sekä muiden sopimusosapuolten puolesta, ilman aikarajaa tai lisäehtoja tai olemassaolevien sovittujen sopimusten muuttamista tai raukeamista. Lisäksi vakuutat, että sinulla on oikeus vapauttaa minut kaikista edellämainituista Humpuukisopimuksista omasta tai työnantajasi puolesta."

Tuota ylläolevaa saa kopioida omaan blogiin vapaasti ja rajoituksetta. Se on pöllitty ja käännetty ReasonableAgreements.orgista...

Juttuhan on niin, että tämä blogi on lisensoitu BY-SA -lisenssin alla, ja jos joku luuseripoppoo alkaa käyttää tätä materiaalia ilman, että tuota Share Alike -klausuulia noudatetaan, niin alkaa remmi heilua. Nuo Blogilistan käyttöehdot eivät tosiaan yliaja tämän lisenssin yli, etenkään noin heppoisella humpuukisopimuksella. Poistan tämän blogin blogilistalta kunnes käyttöoikeudet on muutettu jotakuinkin järkeviksi, ja poistaisin tunnuksenikin, jos osaisin. Käyttäkää vaikka Bloglinesia, tai suomalaista vaihtoehtoa, Blogispottia.

Ai niin, en suosittele lisäämään tätä blogia Blogilistalle omin nokkinenne, sillä käyttöehdot sanovat selkeästi:

Mikäli aineiston saattaa Palveluun muu kuin kyseisen aineiston laatija tai omistaja (esim. henkilö ilmoittaa Palveluun toisen henkilön blogin), aineiston Palveluun saattanut henkilö on vastuussa aineiston sisällöstä näiden Käyttöehtojen mukaisesti, kunnes aineiston laatija tai omistaja on liittänyt aineiston Käyttäjätunnukseensa.

Eli siis jos lisäät jonkun toisen ihmisen blogin listalle, niin olet vastuussa kaikesta siitä, mitä siellä kirjoitellaan.

Lisäys: jaa, enpä ole ainoa. Moni muukin lienee havainnut saman. Blogit vain pois listalta, niin jo katoaa listan arvo. Lähetin vielä erikseen poistopyynnön tunnuksesta meilitse, saas nähdä vastataanko sieltä. Muuten, käyttöehtojen muutoksesta olisi pitänyt tulla meiliä vanhoille käyttäjille, mutta minä en ainakaan sellaista saanut.

Päivitys: käyttöehdot muuttuivat, hyvä. Mutta poistin tunnukseni anyway, koska en ole käyttänyt kyseistä palvelua vuosiin. Mitä minä yhdellä turhalla rekisteröinnillä teen - erityisesti palvelussa, joka osoittaa melkomoista kädettömyyttä päivityksissä, sensuroi "vahingossa" kommentteja eikä ymmärrä blogosfääriä sen vertaa, että tekisi järkevät käyttöehdot ensimmäisellä yrittämällä. Koska kuka tahansa olisi voinut kertoa, että tuollaisista teksteistä tulee itkuparku.

Saturday, 10-May-08 15:38
Mayhem! Destruction! Chaos!

Kitchen 2.0
You know, there is something very satisfying in tearing down your kitchen, ripping tiles off the walls, and blasting broken cupboards with devastating kicks. Most of the days, I create something - whether it is documentation or budgets at work, or JSPWiki back home, so for a change it feels very good to be on the destructive side of things.

Gotta break stuff before you can build new and beautiful things.

Friday, 09-May-08 08:18
Piracy is a public health hazard

So, if you share files, the LA County Board of Supervisors says that it's okay to take away your house for up to one year, because piracy is a public health hazard.

Come on - it's just kids sharing files! It's not like they're crystal meth users or other people who are really dangerous to their neighbourhood. This is really getting insane.

(Via /.)

Thursday, 08-May-08 23:12
Ninja Warrior rulez!

Makoto Nagano is the most awesome guy ever.

That is all.

Tuesday, 06-May-08 14:40
WIMA & NFC

If you want to see what I was doing last week, check out this video from Le Podcast. It's your average trade show stuff, but does have a couple of interesting talking heads (none of which is me, happily enough).

However, there was one demo which quite floored me, having pretty much seen everything in the NFC circles in the past few years. The Touch&Interact-demo from the University of Lancaster uses the mobile phone together with a Google Maps display to navigate, provide information, select, and do all sorts of other interesting stuff. The video is not as cool as seeing it in real life, but it's pretty cool nonetheless.

It's a nice example of how the physical can interact with the virtual.

Saturday, 03-May-08 00:45
Aggregating LazyWeb requests

Interesting - I uttered the word "LazyWeb" in my last blog posting, and turns out there are aggregators like Hoosgot which track these requests and make them available to everyone. So you can follow any requests anyone makes anywhere in the world, right in your RSS reader. Nice...

Friday, 02-May-08 13:43
LazyWeb server setup request

I just know there are people out there reading this blog who can give me just the perfect answer to this... so here goes.

I have two used dual-Xeon w/ hyperthreading Dell servers (loaned kindly by BaseN, thank you very much) which I'm planning to setup to replace an aging P4 shuttle, serving, among other things, this web site. I also have my private emails running on that server, as well as a bunch of personal home directories.

The question is, what is the optimal setup? The parameters which limit the setup are like this:

  • The web sites run Apache 2, which both serves static pages, some PHP/CGI-BIN stuff as well as a couple of instances of Tomcat
  • I am currently running two separate instances of Tomcat, so that when one is restarted due to e.g. JSPWiki upgrades, the startup does not adversely affect the other instance. Tomcat itself is fast; older versions of JSPWiki slow down when repositories are large. These are the worst offenders when it comes to memory consumption/load.
  • Private emails need to be on a relatively fast machine so IMAP access is not annoyingly slow. Also, spamassassin is the second worst CPU consumer currently (yes, I run spamd to even the load a bit).
  • I don't want to be installing/maintaining all the software across different computers, so I would prefer something like NFS to share common binaries & other stuff
  • The system must be optimized for easy maintenance (I use Ubuntu, and I have no intention of switching because I don't want to learn a new distro right now) and reliability. That is, as much redundancy in the system as possible - remember that these are used machines, so we could lose a CPU, a fan or a disk at any time, so we should be able to switch to a single-machine setup with as little downtime as possible.
  • Also running on these computers will be DNS, CVS (to be replaced with SVN in the future), mailing lists, and other small things.

There's plenty of network (Gigabit ethernet connections all around), and the machines are identical (2GB memory, 130 GB disk, 2x HT Xeon @2.6 GHz).

Any advice, hints or tips how this should be set up? I have considered virtual servers, but there are a bunch of reasons why they are not a good option just now.

Monday, 28-Apr-08 00:20
O, Monaco

This city-state is mindboggling. Where else can you see a supercar (a Ferrari F60 aka Enzo Ferrari in this case) parked outside a hotel - and then walk in the hotel, turn on the TV, and see the exact same car on Top Gear?

Part of me feels like I'm in a fairy tale, whisked away in some other reality. But unlike other unreal places, such as Las Vegas, this place oozes power. Las Vegas looks rich, but since most people in there are just passing through, it's all surface. Here, the roots go deep and drink well.

Friday, 25-Apr-08 17:27
Next week, Monaco

Just a quick note: if you happen to be in the WIMA conference next week, drop me a line or come to have a chat at the Nokia stand. We'll have lots of live demos of NFC and I'll be giving a talk as well.

(Dopplr says that I have no travel planned after this. That's a relief, though likely to be a brief one.)

Thursday, 24-Apr-08 15:16
Need a job?

We're looking for a seriously good web developer. The mission of our new team is to develop, prototype and verify new software concepts aiming at later productization. It's a cool job, but someone's gotta do it.

By "we" I mean my new team at Nokia Software & Services. Many of you already know this, but I'm switching to some new challenges inside the company. We now need some strong, all-around, experienced coders to complement the team - people who are proud to be a part of the Creative Class.

We want to create the future, but we're not afraid of falling flat on our faces a few times when doing it. We are on a serious mission, but we are going to make it a fun one.

(Don't send applications or requests of more info to me; click on the link above. Ability to comprehend written text is a crucial quality in any applicant... Also, be aware that you might end up working with me. If this thought fills you with unspeakable horror, then this might not be for you ;-)

Wednesday, 23-Apr-08 05:27
MSN Music servers going dark - so does your music

If you bought any DRM-encumbered music from MSN, you may be out of luck starting September. MSN is planning to turn off their DRM servers, which means that whichever five computers you were using to play the music with, and which they graciously allowed you to do so, will be the five computers that you will be using forever to listen to that music.

The problem (well, one of the problems) with these kinds of DRM systems is that they're bad business: normally, when you press and sell a CD, you don't have to care about it anymore. It's zero cost. But when you have to run a computer system which needs to check every time someone wants to play some music that you sold them - well, that's an extra cost throughout the lifetime of the record. What you save in duplication costs, you pay for bandwidth and electricity and maintenance later on. And none of that is bringing you any extra money. You're stuck with a legacy that you will need to support perhaps for tens - even hundreds of years after the sale; something which you don't need to do with an LP, CD, or even a DVD. And if you're successfull, and you sell a lot, then you will need to be upgrading and upgrading all the time, since you need to support all of your customers ever.

I understand why it sounds like a good deal to turn off the support for your DRM servers after a while. You probably made your customers sign a contract where you say that "we'll run this service as long as we like", but still, it sounds like screwing the customer to me. "We'll give you this media, but you know, we could turn it off next year, and because of the legislation, there is no way legally you can watch the movies or listen to the music you bought."

Is it no wonder that people resort to piracy when the legal options are this bad?

Tuesday, 22-Apr-08 10:42
Arthur C Clarke's goodbyes

Found this one accidentally. It's a good nine minutes: Arthur C Clarke's 90th birthday thoughts, three months prior to his death.

Tuesday, 22-Apr-08 08:29
The Fifth Cylon - revealed

Warning: Behind this link there be spoilers.

(Hehe. Thanks, Matt, for the chuckle.)

Monday, 21-Apr-08 17:26
Is Sharing Too Easy?

I use different sharing sites (like Flickr or Youtube) quite a lot. I don't have that much to share myself, but I follow quite a few people and do post my own share (heh). To make it easier for me I'm using different kinds of software to make it as effortless as possible: for example, I can use Shozu to share the cell phone pictures I take almost immediately, with a single click. It's become so effortless, it's almost a second nature.

But, since my cell phone is equally my personal and my corporate identity, this sometimes creates problems. A couple of days ago, I nearly (but not quite), without much thinking, shared some work plans to Flickr. We had a workshop, someone had to document the results, I got the job, and I used my cell phone to take notes. Oops.

Even a bigger oops was some time ago when I sent accidentally a picture of my one-time password list of my bank account to Flickr (yes, I've changed them since). That I didn't even realize at first (took me like 30 minutes), so there was a window of opportunity for some major damage. I've learned since to keep the list well hidden always.

We all laugh at the guys who send personal emails to the company's "everyone" mail alias. But with all this effortless sharing, these mistakes are very easy to make, even if you are a professional.

Often, security and usability are opposing forces. This is true especially in computing, which has both the potential of being the greatest boon ever created, and also the most efficient way of self-embarrasment. There is, after all, such a thing as making things too easy to use.

Tuesday, 15-Apr-08 13:03
Nokia 6212

Pim! Nokia 6212 Classic NFC phone has just been launched, along with the BH-210 NFC -enabled headset.

It's an awesome little thing. You can share your contacts or media from one phone to another just by tapping the phones together. No more Bluetooth searches - you don't even have to know you have Bluetooth or how to turn it on. Same thing with the headset; turn it on, tap it to the phone, and it works.

(Disclaimer: I work for Nokia in the NFC business area. So obviously I'm excited enough to become a corporate advertising channel for this!)

Tuesday, 15-Apr-08 10:02
Court: using open WiFi is illegal

A court in Salo, Finland has decreed that using a private, open WiFi network is illegal (Finnish). The accused had used his neighbours internet connection without permission through an open WiFi connection, and was fined.

This is a pretty interesting case - what about those who keep their WiFi open on purpose (like me)? Are we guilty of inciting a crime? Also, you don't necessarily know if a WiFi is open on purpose until you actually join it and see if you can access anything. Some operating systems also connect automatically to open networks (e.g. my WinXP is set up so that it joins whatever open network it sees), so you might be guilty of a crime made by a computer. I suppose this is the first case in the world where a piece of technology owned by you can commit a crime on its own, a crime for which you, the owner are responsible.

Of course, robots committing crimes are a regular in science fiction stories, but in a way it's cool to think that we're finally entering that age. On the other hand, this particular case is kind of dumb - you cannot apply the simplistic logic of WiFi network being private property any more than you can consider the light coming out of my windows private property. I know some people like to say that using an open WiFi is just like walking into someone's kitchen and eating all food "just because the front door was open", but this is not a valid analogy. A WiFi signal can be heard for hundreds of meters around - I could equally well argue that your WiFi signal is trespassing in the privacy of my living room.

So, this case cannot be solved through simple, false analogies (much like many things in the digital world - downloading music is not the same thing as stealing bread, thankyouverymuchforplaying), but it needs deeper understanding of the technologies and social issues involved.

The case is apparently going to a higher court, so I hope we'll see some informed discussion on this subject.

Sunday, 13-Apr-08 11:33
The Next Billion

Here's an awesome article at NY Times on Nokia's Jan Chipchase and the others who go around the world on a mission to understand people. I can't even begin to wrap my brain around the stuff that they do.

(Via Matt's del.icio.us stream.)

Saturday, 12-Apr-08 09:39
Janne's Law of Engineering

I've come to the hypothesis that "all engineering problems can be solved through the methodical appliance of yellow stickers."

It's amazing how much you can talk and talk, but when you finally draw it all up and put it on the wall, and rearrange a bit, suddenly things just become clear.

Monday, 07-Apr-08 21:42
Oomph.

You know things are going to be very difficult when you receive an error report written entirely in Comic Sans.

Friday, 04-Apr-08 11:10
Spam Competition

The JSPWiki sandbox is a wiki where you can try JSPWiki to your heart's content. All modifications are wiped out in 24 hours, and we've got all filters or restrictions turned off for the site.

Not entirely surprisingly, this has turned out to be a heaven for spammers. The site is of course not indexed by any search engines, and we have also the so-called "nofollow" turned on for every link, but this is not discouraging spammers from literally competing with each other in deleting the pages and replacing other people's spam with their own spam. A typical spam message lasts for about 30 minutes before it is replaced by someone else advertising something else.

So, spammers are effectively negating each other, since there is only one spam message in effect at any given time. So the "click window" through which your spam could possibly be located by someone is reduced to almost nothing - which means that you have to add more spam and faster. Which, in turn, reduces everyone's click window.

I never really thought that the wiki way would also work here - with spammers making each other less effective :-)

Friday, 04-Apr-08 09:18
Party Fun

Yesterday, I was just leaving work and going to the shop for some orange juice for the morning, as I was met with some old colleagues who were going to go to a send-off party of another old colleague. So I figured, what the hey, I'll join them and switched my orange juice to a couple of bottles of beer.

So, of course, the sendoff party was in a sauna (all parties in Finland are held in saunas), which was on the top floor (all corporate saunas are in top floors, naturally. The CEOs office does not rank as high as the sauna, and thus typically is only on the next floor). To get there, you use the elevator.

Which got stuck between floors, with a loud beep and a bang.

So, we stood there, nine of us in a very small, cramped space, with pizza and beer, everybody shedding clothes (it was getting somewhat warm) and traded stories of people stuck in an elevator over the weekend, drinking their own urine or whatnot. The alarm system just kept telling us that "yes, you are stuck in an elevator, please wait for someone to contact you."

Luckily, the building was filled with engineers, who were working late. And engineers have a tool for everything - in this case, one of those keys that open elevator doors from the outside.

So, no worries, a few minutes later we were climbing out of the elevator and greeted the rather amused crowd outside.

I don't know if this story has any morale, but lately my life has been somewhat busy (this morning is the first one in about two weeks when I haven't been speaking on the phone at 9 am already. I run the phone battery down before noon these days.) So in a way, getting this forced break in busyness, thanks to broken technology, was kind of welcome. It's good to be thrown off of the track every now and then.

Saturday, 29-Mar-08 09:45
You can't negotiate with protocols

Ed Felten raises a wonderful point:

This property of protocols — that you can’t get a meeting with them, convince them to change their behavior, or make a deal with them — seems especially challenging to some Washington policymakers. If, as they do, you live in a world driven by meetings and deal-making, a world where problem-solving means convincing someone to change something, then it’s natural to think that every protocol, and every piece of technology, must be owned and managed by some entity.

Engineers sometimes make a similar mistake in thinking about technology markets. We like to think that technologies are designed by engineers, but often it’s more accurate to say that some technology was designed by a market. And where the market is in charge, there is nobody to call when the technology needs to be changed.

This is something which really needs to be hammered down into policymakers and engineers head. This is how many companies think - big companies which are used to driving technology forward. But many innovations do not work that way - on the internet, companies form around these inventions, and the technology drives the companies.

There's something pretty deep here, and I can't articulate my thoughts really well on this subject. Maybe later. Now I'm off to my first go tournament in what, three years?

Wednesday, 26-Mar-08 08:44
Two wrongs...

Here's an interesting article - some scientists speculate that, because of Peak Oil (i.e. the fact that there are limited carbon-based burnable things buried in the ground), global warming might not be a complete disaster. It'll still be one big whopping major problem, but oil and coal will simply run out before the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere get to runaway levels.

So, in a way, one disaster might save us from another. That's comedy.

(Via Matt.)

Tuesday, 25-Mar-08 20:51
They lie to you

Of course, nobody is surprised to hear this, but it was still wonderful to see this project of photographing 100 product packagings and their contents.

(Via BB.)

Wednesday, 19-Mar-08 16:57
The Burning Question

Polttava kysymys is a campaign to demand a law which forces the country to reduce its carbon emissions yearly. If you would like to support this, please go to http://www.polttavakysymys.fi/ and send a card to your MP. If you don't know what to do in the face of the looming environmental catastrophy, do at least this simple act.

If you're not Finnish, but still live in Europe - go to http://www.thebigask.eu/ for further info to see if concerned people in your country are running a similar program. UK is already getting there, I see.

(Via Jyrki J.J. Kasvi)

Wednesday, 19-Mar-08 08:34
Arthur C Clarke is gone

RIP.

Man, he had such an impact on my life. I probably wouldn't be who I am now without his books.

A true visionary.

Tuesday, 18-Mar-08 21:13
L18N, the :-) way

(Sorry, only really obscure, narcissistic Finnish jokes here today.)

Jostain syystä tämä jaksaa naurattaa minua aina. Oma vitsi, paras vitsi.

JSPWikin kielitiedostot, englanti:

edit.locked=User "{0}" has started to edit this page, but has not yet \
    saved.  I won't stop you from editing this page anyway, BUT be aware that \
    the other person might be quite annoyed.  It would be courteous to wait for the lock \
    to expire or until the person stops editing the page.  The lock expires in \
    {1} minutes.

Suomi:

edit.locked=Huppistakeikkaa! Käättäjä "{0}" on mennynnä muokkaamaan tätä sivua \
    mutta ei oo vielä kehanna tallettaa.  Minen sinnuu estä, jos nyt väen vängällä tahonnii \
    sivua mennä mulkkamahan, mutta suattaapi tuo toinen vähän hermostua. \
    Jos nyt vielä viittisit vuottaa {1} minnuuttii, niin eiköpähän tuo ruojake sitten ole \
    lopettanna.

Vapaassa softankehityksessä on se hyvä puoli, ettei tätä tarvitse aina ottaa niin vakavasti.

(Jos keksitte, mitä murretta tuo on, niin hyvä. Minä en nimittäin tiedä. Minä en edes muista kirjoittaneeni tuota; se vain pullahti joskus hyvin myöhään yöllä versionhallintaan ja siellä se on tyytyväisenä asustanut jo monta kuukautta.)

Tuesday, 18-Mar-08 13:59
Measures of Success

You know that your managerial day has been successful, when both your phone and your Bluetooth headset run out of juice at 2 pm.

Gng.

Monday, 17-Mar-08 00:38
Blogs just entertainment, says the newspapers

The Finnish blogosphere is buzzing about an article in Helsingin Sanomat, which is deriding the blogs having become mostly entertainment, and not citizen journalism, as was touted a few years ago.

You know what? They're right.

And it does not matter. At all.

I am reminded of the early days of Linux. People said it would kill Windows and all other operating systems. But, if you look around today - Windows is still here, and going strong.

But the other operating systems are pretty much gone. The dozens of operating systems from the time - Xenix, SCO, IRIX, HP/UX, BeOS, Amiga - they're no longer contenders. Linux killed all other mid- and low-range operating systems. (The different BSD variants survive because they are works of love, not money. I would argue the same for OSX as well.)

Linus Torvalds has repeatedly said that he does not care too much about his competition - that he did what he did just for fun, not to kill other operating systems and assure dominance of the world. And this passion about doing the right thing is what made Linux what it is now - a very serious contender. It's not killing Windows - but it's certainly making a splash.

And to me blogs are much the same thing: they're about passion. In the long run, things that people care about tend to survive.

If blogs crush the mainstream journalism in the next few years, it's by accident, not on purpose. I doubt that they will (getting crushed by blogs would require some massively dumb sticking to 19th century practices), but if I were the editor of a small science journal or a handicraft magazine, I would worry. The readership of those is moving to the web - because it's cheaper, it's better, and there's more selection.

Stephen Eley pointed out in one of his podcasts that the listenership of his science fiction audio podcast, "Escape Pod", is already exceeding the subscriber amounts to almost all other science fiction periodicals. And why shouldn't it? It's of excellent quality, free (both as in speech and beer), and it even pays the authors. And clearly, it is a work of passion.

Just give it time, and passion. And ignore whatever other people are saying.

Build whatever matters to you.

Monday, 10-Mar-08 10:38
Censorship isn't really about freedom of speech

(Short recap: Finland is using secret, police-made lists to block foreign child pornography web sites. Unfortunately, the list has been proven to be wildly inaccurate, and its legality and efficiency have been heavily questioned.)

A lot of people (me included) have been talking about the internet block-lists as a freedom of speech-issue. To be precise, this is not exactly true. Because the sites are blocked at the ISP level, this means that they will still be there. People are totally free to write whatever they want - it's just that someone will choose what other people can read. A subtle distinction, but important nevertheless.

You see, I think it sends out a dangerous message. These block lists are saying that "yes, it's okay to rape and pillage and do whatever you want to minors, as long as nobody else knows about it." And this is exactly the wrong thing to say. We should expose these atrocities, and make sure that the web sites themselves are permanently shut down, and the people responsible taken to justice, not try to hide the fact that this sort of stuff is happening in the first place.

The unfortunate thing is that block lists are cheap for the government. They require half a person to maintain, and the actual cost of filtering is born by the operators - but even that is mostly a one-time cost, which can be amortized over a longer time. Finnish police is facing losses of 600-700 jobs until 2015, because their work needs to be more "efficient". Efficient in government lingo meaning doing the same job for less money, not better results.

This is the result of this "efficiency" demand. With respect to the internet, we will get the cheap and "efficient" alternative. It looks like something is being done, so that the people can feel all warm and fuzzy inside when they are told that the kiddie porn is gone from the internets, and the police is protecting you. But in reality, the illegal activity keeps going on and growing.

When you can't hear the cries of the children, you can't help them. When you don't know someone is in peril, you can't care about them. This is why blocking is bad, and being pro-blocking is actually damaging the children. If anything, people should be demanding more money to the police to help fight international crime instead of just nodding blithely at the eradication of our constitution at the interests of "efficiency".

(France is now, by the way, extending their child pornography blocks to information on making explosives or chemical weapons, terrorist propaganda and racial hate speech. It is only a matter of time before Finland follows. We wouldn't want to be pro-hate speech, now would we?)

Thursday, 06-Mar-08 18:07
Standing on two stools

Let me just state first of all that I like meat. And fish. And plenty of other things which go about their daily life until it ends with a hatchet buried in their necks. I don't see anything morally wrong in eating other creatures - in fact, that's pretty much what those other creatures do to survive. So why not me?

However, I do hear the arguments that vegans and vegetarians make. From economical and energy-efficiency point of view, it does not make much sense to use grain to feed a beast, when you could use the grain directly to feed people.

So, from the beginning of this year, I've sort of switched to being a half-vegetarian. I try to keep two-three days a week when I don't eat meat or fish products - or at least I don't have them as a main meal. I wanted to blog about this earlier, but I wanted to check that I could actually keep this promise to myself for a while before I went all public with it. I don't know about you, but at least for me it's always been too easy to just pick whatever meat or fish the corporate cafeteria is offering. This decision is making me actively choose other things now, and it's kind of working.

I'm not seeing any health benefits though, nor any other effects, except that I've started to be a bit picky about the beef I eat - it needs to be cooked just right; be the juicy, succulent, tender variety that you can slobber at by just thinking about putting it in your mouth... Not the "generic meat" that is so often served in places calling themselves restaurants. Makes you appreciate the good stuff more, when you don't ruin your taste with crap.

Actually, now that I think about it, the cause-effect relationship might go the other way, too - maybe I've just become too picky first?

Update: corrected terminology.

Wednesday, 05-Mar-08 12:03
Using less to sell more

Nine Inch Nails released its new album for free - there is even an official, fully legal download at Pirate Bay. High-quality MP3, Creative Commons licensed, completely free.

They way this record is supposed to make money is to give nine first songs for free, and then ask people to pay for the 25 other tracks. It's not much, just $5 for a direct download, but there are multiple other download options, the most expensive of which is $300.

Why would you pay $300 for something which is free?

Turns out that many people do just that, and within about two days, the entire set of these exclusive $300 packages is sold out, which turns out to about $750,000. Minus packaging, postage, etc, I would still imagine that everyone should be pretty happy.

It's encouraging to see people trying out these new internet business models - and that they are working!

Sunday, 24-Feb-08 13:12
Random encounters

After a meeting ended up earlier than I was expecting, I managed to slip to town and see the Lord of the Rings musical. Being a sucker for all things Tolkien, it was a bit of a must-see.

But... as with so many things that get lost in their own excellence, something was missing. It's certainly a wonderful show, and the set decoration and lighting and props are without fail and bloody impressive, but I think the simplifications necessary for it to be squashed in three hours just took its toll. People have criticized Jackson's movies for running breathlessly from one place to another, and the musical only has a third of the time. I don't care too much about the stuff which was dropped out, what was important what they kept in. The producers had chosen to play up the general feeling of loss in the book - everyone loses something, and the world is transformed - but that just makes it a very sad road movie with no real sense of doom.

Anyhoo, today was some nice high tea in V&A, and a visit to Picocon. After the disappointment of the London Comic Con, this was a totally refreshing small convention with the right amount of extremely geeky and silly stuff (like the Fish Fight). The ICSF library is also rather impressive: 9000 volumes in total. It's probably one of the largest Scifi libraries in the world, and made my geek heart weep with envy. Big thanks to Cory and Shuri for getting me there!

Friday, 22-Feb-08 09:28
You know you're staying in a hotel outside your budget, when...

...you get a personally handwritten note from the General Manager thanking you for your stay - addressed to "Ms Jalkanen".

In other words: "We're trying really hard to appear awesome, but..."

London. I just love this city!

Thursday, 14-Feb-08 00:18
Hello Kitty MMORPG

Mind boggles.

Hong Kong – February 12, 2008: Sanrio Digital (www.sanriodigital.com) today announced the closed beta launch of “Hello Kitty Online”, a Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG) based on the famous Sanrio characters. Hello Kitty Online allows players to explore and adventure in Sanrio’s fantasy world, a magical land that has recently fallen under the influence of a mysterious and malevolent power.

(Via Joi Ito.)

Wednesday, 13-Feb-08 10:17
Finnish police arbitrarily censors pages which criticize censorship

Finland has implemented a "voluntary" censorship list (based on DNS) to block kiddie porn images. It also seems to block the occasional gay porn and whatever else the police happens to think is filthy. The list is secret, so you're not supposed to know what's on it. Of course, an entrepreneurial hacker pretty easily figured out by spidering different porn site addresses which sites are blocked, and published the list, among with a number of censorship-critical writings on his web pages.

Apparently, as of yesterday, the site is blocked (Finnish) by the censorship list. So, according to the police, while the law explicitly says that "any site containing pornography involving minors" may be blocked, they're now saying that any site "which links to a site containing pornography involving minors" is illegal too.

This is a big distinction, and shows that censorship is a slippery slope. Now, if I link to a site containing the link list, does that make me liable too? What about all the newspapers? What about the search engines? Why would you treat them any differently?

And most of all, what about freedom of speech? The law only speaks of images - not links. The links are supposed to be blocked anyway, so it's not like you can follow them (unless, you know how to use opendns or one of the thousand other services). So, by extending the block list, the Finnish Police are effectively saying they feel empowered to control what we are allowed to say or hear, without any regard to the legislative process.

Any censorship attempts on the internet lead to this point. And this is not the end - oh no! The next things will probably be terrorism sites - sites that tell you how to build bombs. Then we'll get pressurized by foreign governments to expand our definition of "terrorism". And then the large companies will start to complain about piracy sites - both material and intellectual. And about that point, the system will grow beyong the management capacity of a single team, and will be fully automated, and then it'll be easy for people to "game" the system, blocking competition. Because censorship is, at its core, not about moral or immoral, but about opportunity, power and money. The people in control will use it to further their control, not protect the citizens from harm. It's simply too alluring a tool to be wasted on principles and ethics - which is why all modern countries have freedom of speech in their constitutions.

Update: There are at least 20 mirrors of the censored site already, with instructions on how to make your own mirror.

Update2: The easiest way to access the site is to add ".nyud.net" to the web address. So, use http://lapsiporno.info.nyud.net, if you wish to access it. Works for any blocked address.

Saturday, 09-Feb-08 14:12
Sähköisen äänestyksen ongelmat

Antti selittää erinomaisesti, mikä vika on sähköisessä äänestyksessä, kuten se tällä hetkellä on suunniteltu tehtäväksi:

Mitä täyssähköinen äänestäminen vastaisi, jos se olisi lihaa ja verta?

Äänestystapahtuma muuttuisi niin, että sen sijaan, että äänestäjä tiputtaa lappunsa itse uurnaan, hän antaisikin sen kaupallisen yrityksen virkailijalle, joka veisi lapun takahuoneeseen ja tiputtaisi sen siellä uurnaan.

Äänten laskenta muuttuisi niin, että sen sijaan, että kilpailevien puolueiden edustajat laskevat äänet, kaikki uurnat vietäisiin kaupallisen yrityksen tiloihin ja hetken kuluttua yrityksen tiedottaja ilmoittaisi, kuka voitti.

Uudelleenlaskenta tapahtuisi niin, että tältä yrityksen tiedottajalta kysyttäisiin tulosta uudelleen ja hän vastaisi samoin kuin viimeksikin.

Minusta on melko huolestuttavaa, että niin moni tietotekniikan asiantuntija on sitä mieltä, että sähköinen äänestys sellaisena kuin sitä tällä hetkellä ajetaan, on epäluotettavaa. Normaalistihan nörtit ovat juuri niitä, jotka riemumielin digitoisivat vaikka isoäitinsä, jos vain pystyisivät.

Demokratialla ei kannattaisi leikkiä.

Saturday, 09-Feb-08 00:46
Facebook oddities

You find interesting things about yourself in Facebook. Apparently everyone wants to get stuck with me in handcuffs, but almost nobody wants to get stuck with me on a desert island.

What, ya think I can lockpick a pair of handcuffs but not figure out how to build a yacht out of three matchsticks and a handkerchief? Mind boggles.

Monday, 04-Feb-08 12:43
Cthulhu meets Bevery Hills, 90210

There can be only one way this should end.

Please?

(Via Ewan.)

Friday, 01-Feb-08 00:15
Really big falling dominos in my neighbourhood supermarket

Pretty awesome: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7HfMaJJlxTE

Ha! This is my neighbourhood supermarket! Looks like using bricks of juice is not a good idea, but chocolate boxes work really well! I just wonder if these guys have still a job, or was this a planned publicity stunt...

(Thanks to Suviko for the tip!)

Update: The video has been "removed by the user". If you know of a copy, let me know...

Update2: Found the new one. Updated the URL!

Thursday, 31-Jan-08 20:24
Speed on!

There is something inherently beautiful in the Dopplr Raumzeitgeist. Funny to see Finland as one of the top-10 destination countries, but since this is mostly for business travellers, it is not exactly a big surprise, considering a particular former rubber boot factory.

Dopplr is a great little web application. I like the no-fuss design and the general simplicity (though the "Add new trip" -button could be in a more prominent location. I keep losing it.)

There is also a Dopplr Offsetr for those who wish to calculate how much CO2 you are chugging into the atmosphere. You know, offsetting your carbon isn't really that expensive, and it's pretty easy to do - just check how many miles you have and offset them all in one big lump every year. (I use Climatecare.org). Of course, it won't help in reducing the use of carbon-based fuels, but at least it's something.

Thursday, 31-Jan-08 00:09
War on!

I've destroyed the last couple of nights by engaging in playing Battle for Wesnoth, a free (as in "under GPL") role-playing game. While it's no World of Warcraft, it's still pretty awesome. If you get easily hooked on turn-based strategy games like Civilization or the infamous Nethack, you could spend many long hours with Wesnoth...

It's a wonderful little game, and it's all free. Available on Linux, Mac OSX and Windows. It's even available for the good, ol' Amiga and a lot of operating systems you might have never heard about).

It also serves as a great trip down the memory lane to those long nights that you spent playing games instead of studying for the exams at the university... Erm. Not that I ever did that. Really.

Stop laughing. I have to get this music out of my head.

Wednesday, 30-Jan-08 10:39
Ignite! Helsinki

I don't know much about this, but it sounds interesting.

http://ignite.oreilly.com/2008/01/first-ignite-event-in-helsinki.html

Saturday, 26-Jan-08 13:33
Lazy designers

Saw the following on http://www.kuvalehdet.fi/lahjalehti:

Kirjoita 8-numeroinen asiakasnumerosi ilman kirjaintunnusta. Jos asiakasnumerossasi on yhdeksän merkkiä, jätä ensimmäinen nolla pois. Jos asiakasnumerosi on lyhyempi kuin 8-numeroa., lisää tarvittava määrä nollia numeron eteen.

Roughly translated as: "Type in your 8-digit customer code. If your customer code has nine digits, leave the first zero out. If it has less than 8 digits, add a suitable number of zeros in front of it."

Excuse me? Writing a piece of code which does that automatically - even in Javascript, in the browser - is the kind of an exercise you give to a first-year programming student right after the first "Hello World" -program.

Why burden the user with the complexities and rules of the underlying database?

Saturday, 26-Jan-08 00:19
Takeshi's Castle

I've been watching Takeshi's Castle on JIM (in Finnish: "Hullut japanilaiset", a really dumb and somewhat derogatory translation, if you ask me. "Crazy Japanese people". Sheesh.)

It's just... insane ...ly fun to watch.

While some of the challenges make you cringe with pain, some of them are a laughing riot - like the game where people dress up like giant hands and fall flat on their faces in a desperate attempt to find the right answer to a mathematical task.

Still, makes you wonder how many people get seriously injured in the shootings.

Monday, 21-Jan-08 09:04
Message from God

"Bob, what do you mean 'someone copyrighted Mercury'?"

"Look for yourself! http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/messenger/multimedia/phone_crater.html"

"Oh crap. So now the whole NASA is a pirate organization... I wonder if Pirate Bay would agree to co-host us?"

Monday, 21-Jan-08 00:05
EU pushing forward for ISPs filtering traffic?

Hum... I'm rather worried right now. It appears that the European Commission is leaning towards EU-wide data traffic monitoring. euparl.blogspot.com writes:

To recap, the Commission saw great merit in an anti-piracy system where Internet Service Providers ("ISPs") would voluntarily agree to monitor their users and report the infringers to the industry reps or to the authorities, as well as possibly cut off their internet connection. From what we have heard from our sources at the Commission, a lot of the feedback they have currently received has been very supportive of the idea of filtering and monitoring.

This is not at all good. Since it is impossible to stop copyright infringement except by very deeply invading the privacy of personal communication (just imagine what would happen if people would start sending MP3s to each other via email - no wait, people are doing that already), legislation like that means that we will very quickly have a monitoring system in our hands which surpasses pretty much everything ever seen. The numbers about piracy are already totally made up, so they can also make up numbers that show that it is essential that they get to read your email. And don't forget, since some people might be sending child porn over email, everybody's email must be read.

The child porn monitoring system in Finland is already voluntary, and it's already listing sites which don't have much to do with child porn. It has also been already suggested that "since the system is already in place, it could be used to weed out internet gambling. And yeah, terrorist websites."

Slippery slope, anyone?

Saturday, 19-Jan-08 14:42
Broken windows applied to software

I was reading Malcolm Gladwell's Tipping Point (I know, as a resident geek I should've read it a long time ago), and he was explaining the theory of broken windows, which Wikipedia defines as:

"Consider a building with a few broken windows. If the windows are not repaired, the tendency is for vandals to break a few more windows. Eventually, they may even break into the building, and if it's unoccupied, perhaps become squatters or light fires inside."

There has been a lot of criticism towards this idea, and it's not been conclusively proven. But it is intriguing - because what it does is that it suggests that it's not always best to solve the biggest problem first. So I started to think about software and bugs.

In a complex project, you always get bugs. You get simple errors (like typos in the user interface), and large and complicated errors (like concurrency issues). Sometimes they are trivial (do not affect the program execution or purpose in any way); and sometimes they are critical (they make the software useless for the intended purpose).

In your average corporate project, you typically fix bugs by starting from showstoppers and you go down in criticality. This often means that you are left with a number of simple and trivial bugs, that you just don't have time to fix before shipping. Since these simple bugs tend to be also the most common, your error counts don't necessarily even go down, but increase slowly over time.

With open source projects, people often like to "get the low hanging fruits", that is, fix the simple issues. It makes them feel useful, and it gives them bits of fame. For JSPWiki, we get a lot of fixes for the really simple things from the same people who found the issue in the first place - they're not complicated patches, but they scratch their particular itch.

So, I'm wondering, could it be that even in software, the fact that the software has lots of bugs, breeds more bugs? If the codebase is already buggy, developers become more relaxed about maintaining quality, and think they can get away with something that just sorta works. And, if the project management adopted a zero-tolerance policy towards ANY kind of bugs, it might actually increase incoming code quality. This means that instead of allocating people to work on the top-level issues, everybody would be encouraged to squash the simple bugs first to keep the total error counts as low as possible, because in the time it takes you fix a really complicated thing, you can fix ten small ones. It would make people care more about quality, and hopefully, over time, make the project better. Some of this thinking is visible in Test Driven Development, as well as most of the other Agile methods, but I don't know if someone has really done any studies on this.

Apparently there's a book called The Pragmatic Programmer which touches the same subjects. Anybody know if this is any good?

Saturday, 19-Jan-08 11:49
"I'm feeling lucky"

This hilarious video has all Web 2.0 services in a party when Google's parents leave town... I was pretty much LMAO the way through. Thanks to Outi :)

Wednesday, 16-Jan-08 23:24
Library of Congress to tackle crowdsourcing

This is an awesome idea:

Out of some 14 million prints, photographs and other visual materials at the Library of Congress, more than 3,000 photos from two of our most popular collections are being made available on our new Flickr page, to include only images for which no copyright restrictions are known to exist.

The real magic comes when the power of the Flickr community takes over. We want people to tag, comment and make notes on the images, just like any other Flickr photo, which will benefit not only the community but also the collections themselves.

(Via BB.)

Friday, 11-Jan-08 11:17
Today's quote

A co-worker, when talking about wikis and access control: "You don't lock the Moomin House for the night."

Wednesday, 09-Jan-08 18:35
"I am right and the entire industry is wrong"

Daily WTF sometimes manages to dig up the most absurd cases from the madhouse which is the IT world. This example had me laughing out loud:

Therefore, the solution to this specific technical problem, and every technical problem that you will have in the future with multimedia, is framing.

...

In short, the entire industry is wrong on the framing issue and Gary is right. This happens a lot to me. Framing solves this problem and every other multi-page, multi-page source, and multi-media WWW development job. That is why frames are your friend.

(Daily WTF: I am right and the entire industry is wrong. Warning: strong geeky content. Requires basic HTML skills and having lived in the 21st century.)

Tuesday, 08-Jan-08 22:07
Finnish Internet Censorship goes on

It is not mandated by law. Nobody needs to censorship anything. It's just something that the government and the police inofficially decided to do, and the ISPs have joined in - because no ISP wants to be known as the "kiddie porn ISP". There was just a brief discussion on whether it is legal for an ISP to block pages, but that was quickly circumvented by making a law which says it's okay to block kiddie porn (but nothing else).

But it's not just kiddie porn. All of the top-3 google hits for gay porn are also blocked (your google results may vary - some people have apparently found up to three pages worth of hits being blocked). It's probably an accident, but how do you know? Maybe there's someone who thinks homosexuality is evil in the force? Probably not, but it cannot be discounted. Many of the pages blocked allegedly contain only regular porn. (Don't know, I'm not that much into research.)

You see, the blocklist content is extremely super-secret, and its contents cannot be revealed. There is no way to know how exactly this list is compiled, who compiles it, and how you get off it. The thing is, it's pretty easy to build a bot, which automatically scans porn sites and finds out which pages are blocked. Which is exactly what Matti Nikki did, and published the list (785 domains and counting). I ran a quick check of the sites on the list against my spam folder, but couldn't find matches. The question is, if I did, would having those links (or maybe pics) on my hard drive be a crime? Technically, it would be possession. In practice, however, I never do check the contents of my spambox, I just skim it in case of false positives every few weeks, then delete the contents. But in the meanwhile, it could be filled with all kinds of crap. You could probably even make a Denial-of-Service attack on a person by spamming them with kiddie porn emails, then ratting on them.

The fun thing is that the only thing this is probably going to do is to create noise. The child pornography industry will not be touched by this (since there are trivial ways to go around this block). The people who browse for kiddie porn won't be caught. More and more pages will be added - on taxpayer money - and the porn sites keep changing faster. Hey, think about this: if the DNS blocks used by the police blocklist really worked, we would never see spam.

But it is really difficult to talk about this. Any word against this blocking will be read as waving the flag for child molestation. "Why are you so interested in this - are we bothering your hobbies?" they may ask. But that's how it starts. The copyright industry has already suggested that the blocklists should be used to block sites which contain illegally distributed material. Sounds fair, doesn't it? It's illegal, so what's the harm? Then come questions about borderline cases - and it's always easier to be quiet. Soon, you realize you can't access this blog, because I used to have the word "masturbation" in my tagline - it's already happened.

Things change. Moral codes are different - many people across the globe would consider normal Finnish sauna pictures child pornography. You take pics of your kids bathing, store them on your laptop, and go to jail if someone decides to go through your laptop at the border crossing.

These things need to be discussed out in the open. My hat's off to Matti Nikki for taking this as public as he has. We can't just cower below our tables and trust that the police protects us from the evil internets. They can't. Nobody can.

Tuesday, 08-Jan-08 19:31
Continuous Mobile Attention

You might already know about Continuous Partial Attention, coined by Nat Torkington ten years ago. That's how we deal with life - we try to dip into multiple streams of information at once: watch tv and eat; read emails while listening to a presentation; doodle while on the phone. Some people have made it a real art, to the point that you wonder if they're never wholly anywhere.

These days you see people wandering on the streets, talking to ethereal voices (which would've been the sign of a loony only ten measly years ago), or texting away furiously. Online, many people have a chat window or IRC open, so that they can always be reached, and they are always partly present in the online community. A colleague of mine used to keep Skype open all the time when he was at home, because his wife and kids were living in a foreign country. So he was constantly present at their life. It's free, so why call them when he wanted to talk - he could just holler.

You might see where I'm going here.

Soon, people will have flat-rate data plans. Not just the iPhone users, but everyone. Maybe this will even start with the iPhone crowd, dunno. But then someone will install Skype on it. Or something like TeamTalk. And suddenly, with the ability to be continuously (and for free) half-present among your friends, family, or some other peer group, we'll see a lot more people wandering on the streets, never really quite there, listening and talking to voices in their heads.

All you really need is a Bluetooth headset, a multi-user Skype (or Gizmo) and a free 3G data plan, and you can be present in multiple locations at the same time. Be (partly) with your family, no matter where you are. Shift attention to whatever needs it. No switching, no choosing, no dialing. Just presence. And probably, a horribly mangled death under a bus.

(Yeah, and you can extend this to video as well, but that's going to need a bit more hardware innovation. That doesn't some people from trying, though.)

Saturday, 05-Jan-08 12:19
DRM is dead?

Not quite. But if someone tells you that DRM is necessary for online music stores, you can now point out to them that the last bastion of DRM, Sony BMG, has now decided to sell DRM-free music. Nobody is of course very surprised by this - the problems associated with DRM make it difficult for even computer-savvy people to cope with.

However, the DRM-free music is available through Amazon, and they sell it only to the US. Thanks to the system where you have to license music separately for each country, the rest of the world is pretty much still screwed.

It is an interesting question how much of the Apple's DRM strategy was actually behind this: the only way to sell music to iPods (which are the most common form of MP3 players out there) is to either sell music via iTunes (because the iPod DRM is proprietary to Apple), or to sell it DRM-free. This means that if some other form of media players gains dominance (say, cell phones), DRM might just make a comeback. EU has been asking for an open DRM standard for years now, and Microsoft is pretty liberal about their licensing of the Windows Media DRM.

On the other hand, once you start selling unencumbered music to consumers, it may be rather difficult to start selling them DRM-encumbered music later on again...

Saturday, 05-Jan-08 00:15
Unfortunate product placements

Sometimes, you should really think which program you sponsor.

It's funnier if you're a Finn, tho'.

(Thanks to medice on IRC.)

Thursday, 03-Jan-08 19:19
Station identification

I'm stealing this meme shamelessly from Charlie. Sometimes it really is good to stop for a station identification.

The Butt Ugly Weblog

Hi ho folks! This is the personal weblog of Janne Jalkanen. By day, I am a Program Manager at Nokia, and I work in the Near Field Communications (NFC) area. I do sometimes write about NFC in this blog, so you should know that my viewpoint is tainted by what I do and know about the matter. Don't expect any confidential or super-ziikrit stuff here, though - I've been around the block enough. Besides, many of my colleagues are also reading this, and would probably - no, hopefully - notify me if I screw up. Please do not send me any ideas about what Nokia should or should not do - this is my personal blog after all.

By night, I am an open source programmer, leading the JSPWiki effort. The project is one of the oldest wiki engines around (about 7 years now), and existed well before the Wikipedia hype curve. It's got about 130,000 lines of code, and a core developer team of around three-to-five people. We've been currently adopted into the Apache Incubation process, and hopefully can graduate during sometime this year. I also have some other things brewing up, and maybe you will hear about them later on. Even this blog runs on JSPWiki (but as you can see, I am no graphic designer).

At home, I live with a wonderful wife, and five mice. Of which you won't see much in this blog, though. I did propose to my wife on my blog, though. Which was interesting - especially since we ended up as front page news in the Finnish IT press for one morning.

As a geek, I write a lot to this blog about computers, and life in the digital void. Or, maybe not so much about computers - I'm not that interested in them as things - but really about how they are changing what we are and can do. I do often rant about copyright and DRM, but I am fairly midstream and try to be realistic. However, you can expect rants on quite a few different subjects on this blog, or if I'm really busy/tired, then just links to interesting articles. I do also use this as an external memory for my brain.

If you see articles written in Finnish, they are typically just commentary on the Finnish blogosphere, or some other deeply Finnish thing, where it's more important to reach a different kind of audience than what normally hangs here. I don't write often enough to warrant a real Finnish -language blog, and, well, frankly, a lot about this blog is also about online presence management and personal brand. I know it sounds really bad, but... there you go. I've said it. I can't claim that this is a very well -managed brand, but at least it's something. Maybe it will get me a great job one day, maybe it won't. At least it got me married, so it can't be that bad. (And by the way, when I was trying online dating, pointing them to this page was a really great way to check if our sense of humour matched. You wouldn't believe how weirded out some people get over it.)

Obviously, nothing I say here should be constituted as the official opinion of Nokia on anything - all opinions expressed here are mine and mine only. Any comments on the entries to this blog belong to their writers, in both good and bad (that is, if you write something stupid, you are responsible for your words). I do not edit nor moderate comments, except to correct obvious wikimarkup typos; or to remove spam. This is an extension of my living room, and over these few years I've been blocking, I'm glad to say I haven't had to throw anyone out yet (I've had to ask people to leave though, once or twice). You, my dear readers, are a smart and friendly bunch. Thank you.

Well, this is me (or a part of me anyway), and you're reading the Butt Ugly Weblog. It's off to 2008!

By the way, I changed by TagLine just today, and I hope to remember to update it more often than once a year. If you can figure out what it means, please let me know. I invented it very early Wednesday morning listening to a pipe or something go "ping" every Random(2,5) seconds.

(Note to self: isn't it kinda loser-ish or worrying to put your "work self" as the first, most definining thing about yourself? Or am I just being overly analytical?)

Thursday, 03-Jan-08 14:23
DRM is about sales, not piracy

Here's an interesting problem: A person buys a new monitor, with the end result that Microsoft wants full access to all of his files on his computer, and Netflix wants to delete all media files bought from competitors, e.g. Amazon.

Well, technically they're not deleting the files, but they're revoking access rights. But to most consumers, the end result is the same: it won't play.

And why? Because of DRM - Digital Restrictions Management. You could circument it by buying a separate "DRM-approved" -monitor (and, I'm sure, a part of the money goes into the coffins of the media industry).

Cases like these show well that DRM is not, and really never has been about fighting piracy or preventing copying. It's just a ruse to force you to buy things that are "approved" or "officially licensed", and to make sure you keep buying the same stuff all over again.

Why? Because it's cheaper to sell you the same record several times over, than it is to create new content. There's an overhead in creating new content (remember, the artists need to be paid, and not all of them succeed), so it's more economical to take the same content you already have and re-sell it all over again. Witness the gazillion different Collectors Editions and Director's Cuts out there on the DVD market...

Funnily enough, the unprotected (e.g. pirated) files on the hard drive of course have no such problems. They cannot be revoked or resold to you - you essentially own them and it's up to you to take care of them. It's really difficult to comprehend why you would use anything which has DRM on it, if you plan to keep it. If you just watch/listen it and throw it away, then it does not really matter. A lot of media is like that. But a lot of it isn't. I couldn't really give a hoot whether my last.fm stream is encrypted or not (it isn't), but the stuff I buy - well, I think it's only fair that I don't have to go and beg for permission to listen to it if I buy new loudspeakers.

(And, before I have my comment section filled with people who say that I just want everything for free, let me point out that I'm entirely happy to pay for the things I like. I just find it evil that when you buy something, you are treated as a potential criminal, for example, get threatened every time you start watching a DVD. Also, since DRM is not proven to be effective in curbing piracy, only creates problems for the consumer [imagine, if you had to talk your grandparents through the situation described in the article], and is mostly used just to achieve after-sales consumer control, I find it rather offensive.)

(Via BB)

Monday, 31-Dec-07 19:38
Blogispottikokeilua

Huomasinpa, että suomalainen blogipalvelu, Blogispotti on uusiutunut. Valitettavasti palvelu on vielä melko sekava ja kaipaisi käyttöliittymäasiantuntijan hellää ja rakastavaa lekaa (miksi esimerkiksi leiska vaihtelee kun menee osiosta toiseen ja miksi minulla meni muutama minuutti löytää se kaikkein tärkein, eli oma suosikkilista?), mutta toiminnoiltaan se alkaa olla melko kattava. Pidän erityisesti Blogispotin kyvystä nostaa kiinnostavia merkintöjä etusivulleen (ei vain kiinnostavia blogeja).

Lisäksi Blogispotissa tapahtuu jatkuvaa kehitystyötä, ja tekijätkin ilmeisesti kuuntelevat kommentteja, joten jos kurja käyttöliittymä ei pelota, niin siitä vain kokeilemaan ja kommentoimaan.

Ainoa asia minulle on hieman epäselvä on se, kuka tai mikä on Blogispotin takana. FAQ-automaagi ei toimi, joten voi olla, että myytte sielunne jollekin hirveälle ylikansalliselle mediakonglomeraatille, jos käytätte sitä. Ha.

(Minulla ei ole mitään tekemistä palvelun kanssa. Eikä tämä juttu ole sen seurausta, että olivat nostaneet aiemman juttuni etusivulleen.)

Monday, 31-Dec-07 16:08
Next generation of botnets

Bruce Schneier (the Chuck Norris-lookalike security researcher) points to this very interesting article on the next generation of botnets. They're not out to get the internet, but use all sorts of stealth, P2P technologies, and adaptation to evade detection so that they can continue to do their maldeeds. They are highly sophisticated, and use all the latest innovations.

Makes you wonder: if there's ever going to be a singularity event, my guess is there's a pretty good chance it's going to be a piece of malware rather than an algorithm from a friendly research lab. Evolutionary pressure, you see.

Sunday, 30-Dec-07 21:45
Storing your digital self

Christian Lindholm had an accident with his digital media archives and now he's asking how other people deal with it.

My answer is simple: never rely on proprietary software. I don't use Lifeblog, or any other "digital life management" solutions. While I do use iPhoto, and iTunes, I only use them as a viewer. I don't add any metadata - if I do add something, I just usually just name the picture. Other than that, it's plain, basic JPEG or PNG, AAC or MP3 with metadata in the file or the filename itself.

The problem with proprietary software is that they always try to keep you as a user - and therefore they mostly never provide export functionality. Switching away is a problem, and it is also a problem if you ever lose that software, it is broken or you cannot use it for some other reason. I use Windows, Mac and Linux and keep switching between them all the time. Therefore there's no way you could use the same software on each. So you quickly learn not to rely on a particular piece of software, but try to keep yourself as agnostic as possible.

Same thing, obviously, goes for text documents (UTF-8 or Latin1 plain text, thankyouverymuch; or Word97 [it is really rather universal these days]). Incidentally, that's also one of the reasons JSPWiki ships with a plain file text repository as the default - it's really easy to move away from it, if you really need to. No weird-shit database schemas; just plain, unambiguously named files.

As a backup solution, I use a three-way synchronization solution with Unison - one replica on my laptop, one on my desktop and one in a remote server. Since hard drive space is so cheap, it's far easier to manage these automatically than it is to keep making physical DVD backups or drag around USB hard drives. Replicating is the best backup solution I've so far figured out. If I really needed to, I guess I could buy some HD space from a hosting company as well to store an additional replica.

I've had a couple of crashes, and so far I've been able to restore everything that I care about. My replication needs are not as difficult as Christian's (I only got about 30 GB of data I don't want to lose), but this works well for me.

Thursday, 27-Dec-07 17:05
Streamin'

Charlie gives a tip on Socialstream, a social web service project which really seems to get it (and, they also know that you DoNotHaveToWriteAllWordsMashedUpTogetherOrEndItWithR to make a Web 2.0 application!)

Unfortunately it seems to be a research project so far; but on the other hand, it's funded by Google. So we'll probably see something like that coming up.

It's just that I've lately become very hesitant on giving Google any more information about myself, especially knowing the lousy privacy legislation USA has. Unfortunately they are producing pretty good stuff (e.g. Google Analytics), so it's hard not to use a lot of it. But a company which wants to own and organize all the knowledge in the world - well, it's kinda like having a psychopatic superhero in your neighbourhood. All is well, when he's got a good day. But come the government, and use a mind-altering ray on the guy, and suddenly you're screwed with no option to fight back. So I'd rather not put all of my eggs in one basket.

(That's why I dropped out of Jaiku when it was sold to Google, in case anyone is wondering. Then again, most of my friends were on Facebook anyway.)

Tuesday, 25-Dec-07 19:22
Pullaa kupeet täynnä ja sanoja suu tulvillaan

Mikä ihmeen tauti tuntuu leviävän suomalaisessa blogosfäärissä? Yhdet ja toiset ovat aivan varmoja siitä, että HS-konserni aikoo parhaiden salaliittoteorioiden mukaan alkaa valvoa, mitä blogeissa kirjoitellaan, ja jopa toiset bloggaajat yrittävät komennella, mitä muiden pitäisi kirjoittaa. Jotkut tuntuvat saavan orgasmeja siitä, että Hesari - suuri ja kaunis ja ällistyttävän hyvännäköinen Hesari - on alkanut antaa automaatin linkitellä blogeihin, jossa puhutaan tästä ihmeeeeeeellisestä Hesarista, ja toiset siitä, että he ovat päässeet Salaiselle Sulkulistalle.

Voi jösses ja hellan lettas sentään.

Onhan toki ihan kiva, että Erkon lippulaiva on päättänyt siirtyä tälle vuosituhannelle, ja alkaa miettiä, notta miten noita blogeja ja bloggaajia voisi mahdollisesti jotenkin hyödyntää, ettei niitä vastaan tarvitsisi tapella. Ja on tietenkin ihan kiva, että siinä käytetään jopa automatiikkaa, niin ettei olla ihan tyystin toimittajien omien lukulistojen varassa. Ei automatiikka tietenkään kaikkia viittauksia poimi, ja käsittääkseni nekin linkit tarkistetaan, mutta onhan tuo nyt sentään säälittävää räpellystä parempaa.

Mutta hei oikeesti - ihan epämuodikkaan aikuisten oikeesti - eivät bloggaajat tarvitse isoa mediaa hyväksymään tai virallistamaan bloggaustaan. Jos HS ei linkkaa sun blogiin, niin ei siinä sun sananvapautta tallota. Se, että HS omistaa blogilistan on ihan sama kuin että Eniro julkaisee puhelinluetteloa. Voi aarg, ruotsalaiset kontrolloivat puheluitamme valitsemalla mitä numeroita julkaistaan!

Sanoma-konserni voi olla suuri ja paha totuustalo, jonka ilkeät kätyrit lienevät polttaneet joululomansakin vain miettiäkseen, miten bloggaajat saadaan julkaisemaan Erkkomyönteisiä lastuja. Tai sitten voi olla, että he nyt vain yrittävät vain tehdä jotain, minkä oikeaksi kokevat - vanhalle medialle internetin hyväksyminen ja hyväksikäyttö ei ole osoittautunut kovin helpoksi. Minusta ihan se ja sama. Jos tämä uusi media on nyt kerran niin paljon parempi ja nätimpi ja demokraattisempi ja lupsakampi kuin se vanha, niin totta ihmeessä sieltä vanhan puolelta tulee ihmisiä blogoslaviaan ja yrittää tehdä fyffeä. Money makes the world go round, ja silleen. Tulevaisuudessa, tätä tulee tapahtumaan paljon, paljon enemmän. Ylikansalliset bloggauspiirit alkavat tunkeutua Suomeenkin ja heti kun joku keksii, miten blogeilla oikeasti tehdään rahaa (siis muut kuin salakuunneltua.fi), niitä alkaa olla kaikenkarvaiset top-listat täynnä - ja tietenkin niitä top-listojakin aletaan tehdä rahasta, aivan samalla lailla kuin Iltasanomien "paras urheilija" -listoja.

Lainatakseni vanhan median fiksuinta uutta pomoa pitkään aikaan: "So fucking what?"

Kirjoittakaa. Keskustelkaa. Linkatkaa. Tehkää sitä, missä blogit ovat hyviä. Älkää rajoittuko kuvittelemaan, että blogilista == blogosfääri. Älkää erehtykö ajattelemaan, että on olemassa jokin mediasfääri, johon bloggaajat saatetaan ehkä hyväksyä, jos he käyttäytyvät kiltisti. Tilanne on aivan päinvastoin: teillä, hyvät bloggaajat, on hallussanne internet, ehkä maailman mahtavin ja tehokkain sananvapauden työkalu. Te hallitsette sitä, eivät mediatalot. Jos mediatalot haluavat pelata bloggaajien kanssa, he saavat luvan opetella pelaamaan bloggaajien pelisäännöillä. Ei päinvastoin. Jos bloglista alkaa imeä, tehkää uusi. Ei ole kovin vaikeaa, se vie vain jonkin verran aikaa. Perustakaa omat blogipalkinnot - Kultaisen Kuukkelinkin brändinkin saa lainaan, jos vain vakuuttaa minut - tai siirtykää edes käyttämään Bloglinesia tai Google Readeria tai vaikka Feeddaemonia tai mitä tahansa muuta blogipalvelua. Blogispottikin on olemassa.

Selkärankaa, tyypit!

Blogosfääri on teidän. Ei Hesarin. Käyttäytykää sen mukaisesti.

Monday, 24-Dec-07 22:52
I know it's Christmas...

...because we're all resting next to our stomachs

...because we went to sauna at two o'clock already

...because the Santa came by earlier and brought gifts

...because I've got a shiny new DVD package of 3rd season of Battlestar Galactica

...because my ears are still ringing from the laughter of kids

...because there is wrapping paper everywhere

...because Pavarotti is singing Christmas carols in radio

...because Finns aren't updating their blogs

...because the only people visiting this blog are robots

...because there's a really large open box of really good chocolate nearby, and nobody can lift a finger to take one

...because the tree's got lights on it

...because there's snow on the ground

...because there ain't nothing better than spending time with your family

Merry Holidays to all my readers!

Wednesday, 19-Dec-07 23:42
Selfness

Late night discussions yesterday made me ponder: what does it really mean to be online? We say someone is "online" when their chat icon changes to green, or you update things on Facebook, but is that really true?

I have an online persona. Part of it is stored here, on this server, and it's available to everyone in the world, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. So, you could argue, that I am online, 24/7, just because my blog is here. It's not the whole me, but... online, it never is.

Someone said that they get an sms every time someone comments on their blog - and, due to most of his readers being on a different timezone, his cell mostly beeps at 2 am. So, in that very concrete sense, they really are online all the time.

It isn't really about being "online" or "offline". It's all a different shade of response latency, so to say. It just takes a different time to respond - sometimes it takes days or hours, sometimes you can respond instantly. But is there a time period after which you are considered to be "offline?" I don't know. But it's clear that the definitions of "online" and "offline" have blurred to the point where they are becoming meaningless. Like "blog".

Are you online? Right now? Five minutes ago? In two hours? What parts of you are you keeping offline?

Tuesday, 18-Dec-07 13:25
Facebook users attention, you are pwned!

LOL. You may have seen the message passed around in Facebook, saying that "unless you forward this to all your friends, your Facebook account will be deleted, regards, Mark Zuckerberg?" -hoax?

Well, Digitoday, a Finnish IT web magazine, published it as a real story.

You know, I've often wondered who the people are who fall for this kind of trap... Now I know.

To be a bit more serious: it's okay to think. The Facebook team created the entire web site. Do you honestly think they would be unable to send a direct message to everyone in Facebook, and have to rely on people to forward a message to their friends? It's kinda like a phone company representative asking you to call your friend to check if their phone works, because they can't reach them... You wouldn't believe that, would you?

Or maybe you would.

Sunday, 16-Dec-07 12:37
Blogipikkujoulutunnelmia

Jäipä jotenkin kauhean hyvä mieli. Kiitoksia kaikille, paikalla olivat ainakin Marinadi (jonka vilkkuvat rinnat saivat kaikkien nörttipoikien polvet tutisemaan), Sedis (joka lirkutteli naisille kahdensadan sanan minuuttivauhtia), Pörrö (joka joutui Sediksen lirkuttelun kohteeksi), Lord Boredom (joka osoittautui kuuluvan ekslusiivisimpaan suomalaiseen bloggaajasisäpiiriin), Schizo-Janne (joka, jos kuka, on Suomen sisäpiirimestari), Tira (jonka uutta hannukarponruskeaa blogia odotamme innolla), Visukinttu-Jarkko (jonka kiinnostus natsipornoon herätti yleistä huolestusta), Kari Haakana (joka maanitteluista huolimatta ei suostunut paljastamaan takapuolessaan huhujen mukaan olevaa HS-tatuointia), Mika K (joka jotenkin onnistui aina istumaan kolmen ihmisen päässä, eli liian kaukana keskustelulle), Sun Äitis (jolla oli illan parhaat korvakorut - sori Mari!), Turisti (joka sai minut houkuteltua pöydän alle), PA (joka on edelleenkin komea), Junakohtaus (joka loppuillasta yritti pitää puheita, mutta vasta sen jälkeen kun ajatus alkoi pätkiä), Jyrki Kasvi (jolla oli illan paras T-paita), Visa Kopu (hieman elähtänyt versio tosin), Mitvit (jota on aina mukava nähdä, ja joka valitti, etteivät ihmiset löydä hänen uuteen blogiinsa), Veera (beautiful as ever!), Herra Purjehduskenkä, Skrubu, Luksuksen Sarno, Saara (jolle ehdin sanoa käsipäivää ennen kuin hän pakeni paikalta), ja wanha melkein-tuttuni Durianisti (jonka blogi ansaitsisi ehdottomasti enemmän kuin seitsemän lukijaa). Lisäksi paikalla oli varmaan muitakin (ainakin muistan nähneeni Elina- ja Kriisi- nimillä kulkeneet ihmiset), mutta ei voi muistaa.

Update: Ai niin, olihan toki mukava tavata myös Lostis ja Minh. Ja noin kahdenkymmenen sekunnin ajan, Tuija.

Oli hauskaa, uudestaan ensi kerralla!

Saturday, 15-Dec-07 13:56
Scariest toy ever

I may have been watching too much Terminator, but this toy is creepy.

[If anyone in Japan is reading this, feel free to send me a couple ;-)]

(Via BB.)

Tuesday, 11-Dec-07 14:24
Dopplr launches

I have to admit that I'm a really bad Web 2.0 application user. I don't even use GMail regularly, and I actually prefer MS Office to Google Documents.

But a few of them have stuck - wikis and blogs, obviously; Google Maps (though I use Google Earth far more); Linkedin still does its job; and somewhat reluctantly, Facebook; but also Dopplr, who just got out of beta! (Remember the time where everything was in perpetual beta? These new kids, they actually launch!)

Dopplr is wonderful in its simplicity. It does really only one thing - records your travels and allows you to meet up with others on your trips, but it does it well - and I happen to be in the smack middle of the target group. So yeah, it stuck.

You see, business travel is bloody lonely, most of the time. You sleep alone, you eat alone, you explore the city alone (if you have the time). Sometimes not, but often yes. So it's great to even know that there are others traveling about, other people in the same situation. And sometimes, you manage to say hi to someone you know that you haven't seen in a while. It's great :)

Tuesday, 11-Dec-07 00:36
The most useless USB thing ever.

I actually have one of these.

No, it's not even a memory stick. If it were, I would gladly take it to meetings and offer to share my documents, just to annoy my coworkers.

Or, I might put pr0n on it.

Saturday, 08-Dec-07 14:25
Ei-kaupallinen tiedotus

Tämä tipahti postilaatikkooni ja lupasin edistää hyvää asiaa (vaikken ko. järjestön ihan kaikkia mielipiteitä purematta niele noin muuten):

Tule toteuttamaan kuluttamisen uutta vaihetta!

Tuotewiki eli "kuluttamisen tietosanakirja ja keskusteluareena": kaikki, mitä olet halunnut tietää tuotteista ja kertoa muille - tai jos ei vielä tänään, niin varmasti jo parin vuoden kuluttua. Tule mukaan tekemään jotain suurta! Hyvät ja monipuoliset tiedot tuotteista helpottavat jokaisen valintoja, haluatpa sitten tietää onko espanjalaisen tomaatin hiilijalanjälki pienempi kuin suomalaisen kasvihuonetomaatin, tai mikä on öljyssä uiskentelevan tonnikalan ravintosisältö.

Tuotewikin kehittämiseen ovat tervetulleita kaikki, eli jos haluat jakaa tuotetietoutta ja kertoa kokemuksia, niin mukaan vaan. Hyvät ja monipuoliset tiedot tuotteista helpottavat jokaisen valintoja - eikä Tuotewiki rajoitu vain ekologiseen kuluttamiseen.

Maanantaina 10.12. klo 18 alkaen Dodon Tuotewiki-projektin avoin tutustumistilaisuus Dodon toimistolla Kruununhaassa Helsingissä (Vironkatu 5), lisätietoja osoitteesta www.tuotewiki.fi .

Lisätietoja: topias.siren@dodo.org

Hyvä idea, mutta vaatii paljon työtä ja ihmisiä onnistuakseen. Wikien ylläpito ei ole maailman helpointa työtä...

Saturday, 01-Dec-07 12:58
Two Girls, One Cup, A Thousand Videos

I've spent most of my morning watching videos of people who see the "2 Girls 1 Cup" video for the first time. I'm finding that oddly pleasing, maybe because it reminds me that in this age of "we've seen it all", there still are boundaries to our boxes.

Or maybe it's just that I love to see people dropped outside their comfort zone, even if just for a minute.

(If you have no idea what I am talking about, turn on your webcam, click "record", and then click this link. Then, post the video to Youtube. Be warned though - and I am being completely and utterly serious here - do not watch it if you do not like to go outside your comfort zone. Miles and miles outside of your comfort zone. Isn't the Internet wonderful?)

Saturday, 17-Nov-07 13:24
A sick graph

According to these people, the cost of the Iraq war would've bought enough solar power plants to cover 2/3 of the US energy demands.

Even if that graph were off by an order of ten, it would still mindboggling.

Saturday, 17-Nov-07 10:12
Warner: oops

Edgar Bronfman from Warner Music finally says it: "By standing still or moving at a glacial pace, we inadvertently went to war with consumers by denying them what they wanted and could otherwise find and as a result of course, consumers won."

Then he continues to warn the operators about doing the same mistake.

Yes, Edgar, you got it. That's what the consumers have been telling you for the past five years. I applaud the fact that you finally get it, and even more that you're telling the operators this. But still, the damage you've caused with your cheap rhetorics will take years to repair.

(Via Slashdot.)

Tuesday, 13-Nov-07 13:12
Management vocabulary for newbies

Being a manager often means sitting in long meetings. This meeting culture obviously gives birth to new language. Here are some words I've heard being tossed around recently:

  • biobreak, n - A ten-minute break at two hour intervals to attend to the necessary biological functions that resources inconveniently have.
  • do email, v - Browse the web.
  • facebooks, n - A general word for any social networking website where you waste time.
  • lunch, n - A 45 minute period during which you consume food while continuing the meeting. Usually followed by a biobreak.
  • business casual, a - When a geek tries to appear business-like
  • "I have a slide!", i - Short for "I have been quiet very long in this meeting but I want to make sure you don't forget me, so therefore I have these slides from 1999 that I wish to make a lasting impression to you with."
  • meeting, n - a derogatory word used by software engineers to indicate a waste of time.
  • face-to-face, n - A meeting where more than half of the invited people are present physically.
  • telco, n - A meeting where less than half of the invited people are present physically.
  • information sharing, n - A meeting where less than half of the people are present mentally.
  • lids down, a - A meeting where using laptops is not allowed. Tends to be short, and seems, on the surface, highly efficient. However, it also disappears from people's memory once it is finished.
  • chairman, n - A mythical creature rumoured to be living in the Canadian forests. Believed to be extinct since 1971. Is attributed with the amazing power to keep discussion on topic.

Have you heard of any other ones?

Sunday, 11-Nov-07 20:27
Bouncy bouncy

HEL->HAM->BRU->BIO->LHR->HEL. In three days.

I feel like a rubber ball.

(But on a more positive note, the flu seems to be gone. Just had a nice 8 km walk in a park, hunting for geocaches, finding none.)

Thursday, 08-Nov-07 14:45
Question...

...how long do you think it's going to take the news media to find the people who've joined the Jokela highschool shooting sympathizers group on Facebook, and crucify their asses in public? Assuming they are real people, of course.

Because, you see, there are assholes in this world who think that this shooting was a good thing. Like these morons. Yeah, I know, they can say whatever they want - freedom of speech and all that. But then again, I get to call their opinions utterly shitheaded. So we're even.

It's also amazing how people have managed to already find their soapboxes and tell everyone that this was the fault of the government, the Democratic party, the National Coalition party, the Green party, heavy metal music, tv, videogames, USA, the Nazis, the parents, the school system, the internet, the media, bullies at school, lack of funding to public healthcare, too much public healthcare, and whatever happens to be your pet peeve.

This is the time to grieve and comfort and ground yourselves. It is not the time to scream vengeance, find a scapegoat, or give into mob justice. And most of all, it's not the time to try to advance fuck-faced agendas with scare tactics. We know all the end result when that happens.

Sunday, 04-Nov-07 23:06
Free cars?

Makes sense to me. Why couldn't you sell cars just like you sell cell phones - item is free but you pay premium for the use.

Sunday, 04-Nov-07 15:39
Piracy, yet again

The past couple of days have seen some interesting discussion on the ever-popular subject of piracy (no, not the kind where armed men kill civilians on boats and rob all their money and sail to sunset shouting "Yarr!", but the other kind, where nobody dies and even the money robbing is under debate, so I don't think it's quite correct to use this vile word to portray the downloaders). See these at Uusi Suomi, Tietoja koneesta and Piraattiliitto, though unfortunately they are in Finnish only. Especially the last article is very useful to show that the current copyright does not always help the artists in the way it is supposed to help.

By one count, there are 120,000 of these "pirates" in Finland alone - i.e. about 2.5% of the nation's population. (My guess is that this number is too low, anyway.) My educated guess is that these are the smart and the bright of the population. Much is said about the relative simplicity of downloading stuff from the Internet, but it's not really that easy - unless you already know what you are doing. It's still a lot simpler to go to your neighbourhood supermarket and buy the DVD box than it is to play around with codecs and subtitle files, and whatnot.

So, these "pirates" are the people who will in ten-twenty years be in the positions of wealth and power.

Considering that the police in this country has at most maybe a few dozen people who are trained for this kind of job, how exactly could this thing be stopped? To me it sounds like a 1000:1 advantage in numbers to the media sharers - where the among the crooks are the brightest and smartest people, who live and breathe the Internet, and can do international collaboration much better and faster than any official. Where a thousand bright people create a DRM solution, a million equally bright people will crack it.

Just by looking at this thing by numbers and not thinking at all about what is legal and what is morally right, it's really hard to see how the end result could be anything else but the complete transformation of how we think about intellectual property rights. It'll take twenty years or so, but it will happen once the bright minds of today will have their first sips of real power in the society. It will be too hard to outlaw stuff they have lived for the past thirty years with.

Update: Larry Lessig's speech at TED. Good talk - he's right that there must be a middle ground. Extermism gets extremism.

Sunday, 04-Nov-07 11:08
Narbeleth

I've lately started to think that Finland really has five seasons instead of the usual four: The light green and energy of spring; the bright green, strong, vibrant and short summer; the autumn, full of gold and red; the dark, black wetness of marras, or what the Tolkien elves called quellë, or "fading"; and the pale blue and white cold of winter.

This "dead" season really is what I hate the most about Finland. It's a miserable period of time - and especially in Southern Finland it seems to go on for ages, maybe ending just right before Christmas.

That's why it was wonderful to see the first snow yesterday. It brings in the promise of winter, a season when you can feel alive then. And now the sun is shining, so things aren't all that bad.

Saturday, 27-Oct-07 12:28
H3...

...and it's my first experience with "we block everything because we don't trust you" -corporate networks. Annoying. Facebook is blocked, Jaiku is blocked, Myspace is blocked, Travian is blocked (but not travian.fi, ha!), ssh is blocked... Even the corporate VPN is blocked (probably so that they can monitor my highly suspicious activities.)

Heck, I'm just a guest here.

(Other than that, I'm pretty jazzed to be here. Looks like a good crowd. :-)

Tuesday, 23-Oct-07 16:57
English-Finnish poetry

One of my favourite pages on the internet is the word plays page of #go.fi, a Finnish page which documents quite a few word plays in the Finnish language, ranging from completely moronic to simply brilliant. Not all the material is original, but a lot of it has been born in the dark corners of that IRC channel. Here's one that someone managed to dig up somewhere from teh intehweb - a poem which is both valid English and Finnish (with some liberties taken in joining words, and a lot of liberties in logic):

Sun on helmet,
Sun on villas.
Talon join.
Ah, sure Hamlet!
Miss lie into sun?
Miss on ties?
Maiden pimentotie.
Valehelmet vain
Sullen vein. 

(Did you know that the Finnish word "kaakatattajatartaankaanhan" contains 12 a:s? I wouldn't use it in a sentence, though... My personal favourite is "Io-aie ei ui: EU ei aio, Ii Oy ei oio", a (fictional) news headline consisting completely of vowels.)

Wednesday, 17-Oct-07 16:26
H3: RFID workshop

I'll be giving a talk on NFC at H3: RFID workshop, London, 27th October – 28th October, 2007.

See you there!

Tuesday, 16-Oct-07 18:17
Youtube's filtering system

Heh, so YouTube launches its new filtering system aimed at filtering out illegally uploaded content. It works by comparing the uploaded file to a vast library of known copyrighted works.

So, this means that anyone who wants to prevent people from uploading stuff to Youtube must give a copy to Youtube. Which means Google.

This is a brilliant move by Google: now everyone and their cousins will be rushing to give copies of everything they have ever made to Google, essentially creating the largest library in the world. Granted, it won't be public, but that's just a matter of negotiation, once the content is in the system. And at any rate, Google can index all the content, which already brings more value to their search engine.

Smart guys.

Tuesday, 16-Oct-07 15:46
Artist Trading Cards

Outi has recently started to make so-called ATCs, or Artist Trading Cards, just as a hobby. ATCs are a relatively recent invention, popularized by the internet, where people present and trade the cards they've done. The form of the cards is fixed (2.5 x 3.5 inches), but the content and presentation are free. For some reason this reminds me so much of blogs and blogging, where the form is fixed, but content and presentation are free.

Typically also the price is free - you don't pay for this stuff, but you trade with someone else. Almost like link trading that bloggers do so often...

For some reason it seems to be a lot more easier to innovate once you put one leg in the ground and start really looking what you can do within the box. It's very, very hard to be creative outside the box if you don't know what the box is.

Here are some interesting Flickr images, and Outi's cards.

Sunday, 14-Oct-07 11:26
WikiWednesdays?

Anybody in Finland interested in a WikiWednesday? Might be fun to try...

Friday, 12-Oct-07 00:08
Why I hate geek parties

You know, sometimes I really hate working for Nokia. Not because of the company, but because of the fact that most Finns have an Opinion on Nokia. Let me summarize a discussion I had earlier today. And last week. And last month. And about two dozen times in the past five years.

"Well, Nokia is the biggest cell phone manufacturer today."

"Yes, but they are doing it all wrong."

I guess this is what all Microsoft people must be feeling too.

Thursday, 11-Oct-07 18:13
Doris Lessing gets Nobel

Wow! The Nobel Prize for Literature goes to Doris Lessing - one of my all-time favourite authors.

Wonderful!

Thursday, 04-Oct-07 17:16
Right- or left-brained?

Me, I'm hare-brained, but that's beside the point. Here's a cool test, with which you can check whether you are dominated by left half of the brain or the right half.

I was surprised to see my right half is the stronger one. Not such a geek after all, eh?

(And yeah, you can make it turn the other way if you want to.)

(Via IRC.)

Update: I'm not sure whether this really has anything to do with brain halves, but unlike some people are claiming, it's most certainly a real optical illusion and not a hoax. I opened it in an animation editor and checked how it works. It's brilliant.

Wednesday, 03-Oct-07 20:36
This trip's Lost In Translation -moment

Last night, to my utter dismay, I realized that one of the lights the hotel room would not go out, no matter how hard I pushed the buttons. I had an internal committee meeting about smashing the lamp or calling the reception, but in the end decided to just sleep and complain about the whole thing in the morning.

Today, after a long stretch of meetings I walked to my room, preparing to change clothes for an evening out. I enter my dark room in the 28th floor, illuminated only by the bright lights of the Tokyo skyline, and then I see the hotel phone flashing a red light, like an evil eye.

It says "Messages."

I lift the receiver, and press the messages button. It rings for a long time, and then a Japanese voice answers. She says something rapidly, and I apologize and continue in English: "I have messages?"

She tells me to wait a moment, disappears, and then returns.

"The right is prepared" she says, pronouncing carefully.

I stop. Have my left-wing connections been discovered? Is voting Green illegal in this country? Is my secret identity revealed and are my contacts in danger? Shall I eat immediately the picture of Che I carry everywhere, before cops bust in through the windows?

I must know. I carefully produce the secret code, known to all my co-conspirators to check if she is one of us.

"Err, what?" I say.

She takes a deep breath, and tries to be as clear as possible.

"The right is prepared" she says, stressing the words.

Ah. A small lightbulb lights inside my head, and I thank her, hang up and breathe a sigh of relief.

Yes, it's a dark room. I flick the switch, and lights go on and off at will. The light really seems to be repaired.

Sunday, 30-Sep-07 20:24
The weird food...

Full chicken; some assembly required.
...of this trip is now officially chicken ovaries. The Japanese really know how to cook all the even remotely edible parts of a chicken.

(They have a certain egg-like texture and taste, if you absolutely want to know. Quite logical, really.)

Reminds me of the time I was served chicken sushi, i.e. raw chicken. One of the scariest things I've ever eaten. It was pretty good, actually.

Sunday, 30-Sep-07 13:21
Guilty pleasures and good service

Pocky Marble
The way that flights to Japan go (and jet lag) I usually end up spending the Sunday morning and early afternoon in my hotel room, indulging in two guilty pleasures: trying out the new flavors of Pocky, the ubiquitous Japanese candy, and watching the Sunday morning professional go game on television, trying to guess the next move.

This time, I ended up trying Pocky Marble, which despite it's name is actually green and tastes vaguely like green tea. But it does not have the strong, bitter taste of 抹茶, so it's pretty good. The exchange rate is very good for us Europeans right now, but so far I haven't seen too much "must-have" items. I did buy a new Yukata, though...

I'm trying to post as much as I can to my Jaiku stream, and the more I use it the more I like it. Much like with blogs, restricting the format allows you to innovate. SMS is one of the most popular communication forms on this planet, and still it's extremely restricted. Plain text was perfectly good for Shakespeare, and I'm not sure if Hamlet would be any better with hyperlinks.

I know a lot of people value user freedom, and building a playground where anything is possible, but I would argue that in many cases, it's a lot better to put people in a box. Because boxes are good for imagination. I think that's why Second Life is so boring for me - it's too open. In order to really get the value out of it, you have to invest a lot of time upfront. With something simple like SMS the value is almost immediate, and easily reachable.

Power inside the box!
Some people scoff World of Warcraft because you can't do as many things in it as you would in a role playing game. Some people are trying to build games where the GM cannot restrict the players from doing what they want. But to me, these arguments sound like the geek approach to building software: try to make it as generic as possible so that anything could conceivably be accomplished. It's true these are restricted - and because of that they are so interesting to me. If you have complete freedom to do anything you want, then it quickly becomes boring. I need something to kick my imagination with, so to say. Maybe that's why I'm an engineer instead of an artist :-)

By the way, my hotel has an innovation I would really hope other hotels would copy: the room safe has a power-strip inside, so you can charge your laptop while you're walking out in town. I would like to call that inside-the-box -thinking. Brilliant!


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