Archive for August, 2007

No – NewsWireless has not got a cyberphone implant

August 22, 2007

The story sounds like a Kevin Warwick adventure: NewsWireless reporter Bill Ray claiming that “I had my iPhone surgically implanted in my cheeks – but it’s as unlikely as the Martel story.

It may sound obviously absurd. But claims that Thomas Martel, 28, of Bonnie Brae had his over-sized thumbs “whittled” to make using his iPhone easier, have turned out to be a marvellous hoax perpetrated by the North Denver News – a hoax that fooled many online news sources.

“Sure, the procedure was expensive, but when I think of all the time I save by being able to use modern handhelds so much faster, I really think the surgery will pay for itself in ten to fifteen years. And what it’s saving me in frustration – that’s priceless.”

Did you believe it?

Here’s the original North Denver News – Editor’s Note:

“Among the points of the piece: that U.S. society accepts plastic surgery and decorative deformation of the human body for vanity, but not other reasons (consider the Bonds steroid stories); that technology has become a new cult phenomena, in which items are praised or ridiculed based upon tribal allegiances instead of functionality and performance (and we are members of the Cult of the Mac- iPhone division); and we like to pretend that some of our writers have a sense of humor.”

If only we got the readers we deserve, eh?

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Anti-social, or anti-cellphone?

August 21, 2007

People talk about anti-social behaviour. Perhaps we might focus on Anti-cellphone behaviour: as the Hunky Mouse suggests:

We came up with a really good plan to cope with a thoughtless colleague who was always leaving his mobile on his desk, and wandering away for an hour. It was an open office, and he had a really irritating ringtone. Threats (talk of buckets of water) had no effect.

While he was out one day, the office techie took it upon himself to switch the ringtone to something quiet, but embarrassing.

It’s worth a try!

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Love Honey and The Register and NewsWireless

August 20, 2007

Don’t throw your old RampantRabbit in the ordinary trash! Recycle Responsibly! NewsWireless appears to have joined in with The Register in straight-faced (if not entirely strait-laced) enthusiasm for not throwing electronic goods into landfill.

The Reg’s headline was a little … well, what do you think? Some might say: “Worn out your vibrator? Relief is at hand!” isn’t strait-laced at all.

LoveHoney is extending environmental awareness to the bedroom by encouraging people to send in their overloved rabbit vibrators so that they can be recycled and treated in an ecologically sound manner, rather than being dumped in landfill sites. For each rabbit received through the scheme, LoveHoney is donating £1 to the World Land Trust and offering customers the opportunity to buy a clean, green rabbit for half price.

(As to what “the tarrif” might be, best not to ask…)

The full story was “responsibly recycled” atNewswireless including the observation that:

Specifically, it was resolved that the site should never more darken the internet with tales of Bulgarian airbags, black cocks, and people having sex with goats.

Are we bovvered?

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So, just who actually does write Wikipedia?

August 19, 2007

Who dunnit?

Wikipedia and the art of censorship

“The chance to rewrite history in flattering and uncritical terms has proved too much of a temptation for scores of multinational companies, political parties and well-known organisations across the world.”

It’s obvious, but apparently, the skulduggery is more extensive than we knew:

Now a website designed to monitor editorial changes made on Wikipedia has found thousands of self-serving edits and traced them to their original source. It has turned out to be hugely embarrassing for armies of political spin doctors and corproate revisionists who believed their censorial interventions had gone unnoticed.

Read more at The Independent Sci_Tech Saturday 18 Aug
And of course, there’s the awful confession from newswireless.net Editor, Guy Kewney:

I myself felt obliged to edit my own Wiki entry at one point, so I sort of sympathise. But VirgilGriffith and his WikiScanner caused quite a bit of excitement by showing that some of the entries in the volunteer-encyclopaedia can be directly traced to the PCs used to create them.

Tsk.

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ScribeFire – broken?

August 18, 2007

I’ve got accustomed to relying on ScribeFire for quick note-taking for this blog. It’s great! – a Firefox browser extension; if you find a certain something on the web, mark the bit you like, right-click, and choose the ScribeFire option. Seconds later, you have a complete blog entry.

Several menus

Yesterday, I noticed, idly, that the right click option had several menu levels. The one I always use is “blog this” but there are others. In a moment of curiosity, I tried “page tools” and discovered that it takes me to different view.

Instead of an HTML editor, showing what I am posting, I found myself looking at a ScribeFire window which shows Technorati statistics; who links, how many, and so on. And I can see how that’s useful!

So today, I decided to blog something. I went through my normal routine, and hit “blog this page” and…

found myself looking at the “Page Tools” window. And there I’m stuck. I can’t regain the “blog this page” window, and I can’t see how to do so!

Help!

Your laptop is your world: your PSU is Paradise!

August 17, 2007

A moving, poignant story of tragedy in Foreign Parts, in this week’s net.wars column from Wendy Grossman!

What’s the most scary thing you’ve seen in computing?

No, not the Merlion!

“Some designs are just annoying – the Blue Screen of Death, say, once you get over the initial fright of seeing it. Somewhere on the planet there may be someone who sees the screen and can read the gibberish in the few seconds before the screen goes black and the computer restarts and say, “Ah, yes, it’s the shedelepp in the specklediff” (non-words courtesy of the late humourist Jean Kerr).

 Other designs are just dangerous: the laptop power adaptors that burst into flames, for example.

It seems disproportionate, but anything has to be better than the black void of no communications, nothing to work on, and no entertainment. Because these days, when you travel, your laptop is all those things.

Check out the whole sad story in newswireless.net!

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The famous Oz trial – turned into TV

August 17, 2007

If you want to get a good idea of what the Oz trial was actually about, search through Rare British Television Reviews – a sparsely filled blog, for the following:

Sunday, June 11, 2006
Oz Night (BBC2, 1991) – Oz – The Magazine, The Trials of Oz, Oz debate, (plus Did You See…? on The Trials of Oz)

And if you want to know what Felix Dennis was like, here’s someone who knows him, reminiscing…

Can we predict climate, if we can’t predict weather?

August 14, 2007

Recently, the New Scientist
http://environment.newscientist.com/article/dn12453-prepare-for-another
quoted some predictions of climate change. Interesting article! – so I quoted it on a chat system.

Response: “And the weather forecast for tomorrow will in all areas be 100% accurate, as it is always!”

Why do so many people try to make a connection between weather forecasts and climate forecasts? I asked the question, and got a prompt answer:

“Because at the end of the day climate is made up of weather? A case of micro and macro.”

So I started looking for examples of situation where the micro is a good guide to the predictability of the macro. Not to make too much fuss about it, I can’t find them. I can find plenty that go the other way!

A good example: a gramme of radioactive material. It has a half life of one hour. You cannot predict the moment of decay of any particular atom of that material. And yet, you can be absolutely sure that after an hour, half the atoms will have decayed.

Or the monsoons of India. You can never say which day the monsoon will start, and there are even years when it fails. And yet, you can be absolutely sure that in a decade, there will be at least nine monsoons in India.

Take climates of opinion. I can’t tell you when the next paedophile scare will occur; but I can be sure that over the next twelve months, there will be several.

Right now, it’s summer. I can’t tell you which day will be the hottest of the year; but I can be sure that the hottest day this summer will be about ten degrees above the hottest day from December through February.

Knock over an anti-hill. Ants run everywhere; bring your foot down in their midst. I can guarantee that you’ll kill many on the macro level; I have no way of looking at the swarm in advance and saying which, at the micro level, will live or die.

Start a business. Will you succeed? or will the fledgling enterprise go titsup in its first year? Millions are thrown away each year by investors who  people would love to be able to say “Yes!” or “No…” in advance; and yet, year on year, eleven out of twelve startups die before they reach their first birthday.

If the economic climate changes, of course, and recession sets in, you can see that in the number of business failures. Does it help you predict  which businesses will survive?

Twenty horses line up at the starting gate. I can predict with astonishing accuracy that at least nineteen of them will be past the finish line half a mile away within roughly a minute of the “off” – but anybody who pretends he knows which of the horses will be first across the line, is a conman (or “tipster”) who is out to get your cash.

A storm hits London. Winds shake the windows and doors; any actuary will tell you that next day, he’ll get claims for roof damage. Can he tell you which house will be hit by the gust?

I can think of any number of examples where, with little skill, the macro situation is predictable by the feeblest intellect, but where the micro events which make it up are going to elude the cleverest forecaster. We all know this!

Even the people who deny that climate is changing, work on the same basis: they look at average highs and lows over an extended period, and try to see what the macro trend is. Individual years will vary; on the micro level, it’s impossible to say “next year will be an El Nino!” or “in two years, a volcano will fill the Northern hemisphere with dust, causing unusually low temperatures” – but average your observations out over a sufficiently macro level, and you’ll have a good picture of what is going on.

 So, what instinct compels quite smart minds to reach for this comfort – “weather forecasters get it wrong!” – when it comes to climatic predictions?

And while you’re thinking about that, check out NewsWeek:

Global-Warming Deniers: A Well-Funded Machine – Newsweek Technology – MSNBC.com

After ExxonMobil was chastised by senators for giving $19 million over the years to the Competitive Enterprise Institute and others who are “producing very questionable data” on climate change, as Sen. Jay Rockefeller said, the company has cut back its support for such groups. In June, a spokesman said ExxonMobil did not doubt the risks posed by climate change, telling reporters, “We’re very much not a denier.”

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Off for sunshine? Try the Arctic

August 14, 2007

New York Times writer Andrew C. Revkin is doing a series describing the effects of warming on the environment and the people of the Arctic.

Simply Incredible

 August 10, 2007

The area of floating ice in the Arctic has shrunk more this summer than in any other summer since satellite tracking began in 1979, and it has reached that record point a month before the annual ice pullback typically peaks, experts said yesterday.

 

The cause is probably a mix of natural fluctuations, like unusually sunny conditions in June and July, and long-term warming from heat-trapping greenhouse gases and sooty particles accumulating in the air, according to several scientists.

William L. Chapman, who monitors the region at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and posted a Web report on the ice retreat yesterday, said that only an abrupt change in conditions could prevent far more melting before the 24-hour sun of the boreal summer set in September. “The melting rate during June and July this year was simply incredible,” Mr. Chapman said. “And then you’ve got this exposed black ocean soaking up sunlight and you wonder what, if anything, could cause it to reverse course.”

Mark Serreze, a sea-ice expert at the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colo., said his center’s estimates differed somewhat from those of the Illinois team, and by the ice center’s reckoning the retreat had not surpassed the satellite-era record set in 2005. But it was close even by the center’s calculations, he said, adding that it is almost certain that by September, there will be more open water in the Arctic than has been seen for a long time. Ice experts at NASA and the University of Washington echoed his assessment.

Dr. Serreze said that a high-pressure system parked over the Arctic appeared to have caused a “triple whammy” — keeping away clouds, causing winds to carry warm air north and pushing sea ice away from Siberia, exposing huge areas of open water.

The progressive summertime opening of the Arctic has intensified a longstanding international tug of war over shipping routes and possible oil and gas deposits beneath the Arctic Ocean seabed.

video classifieds?

August 10, 2007

Erm…

Craigslist Meets YouTube Meets Yellowpages as Listasaurus.Com Launches Video Classifieds