'Max Headroom' Is Coming to TechTV - ie. Max Headroom is being replayed on cable TV. The Max Headroom series is credited with being the first "cyberpunk tv series", and as this story says, basically the last. Damnit. I was too young to pick up on this in first instance, so I really wish I could see it now (wrong continent and no cable tv anyway!).

Realistic appraisals of security issues are starting to appear in mainstream (ie. non-IT) news. The BBC reports... Employees seen as computer saboteurs. Basically companies are realising that pissing off your employees can be bad for your system's health, not to mention that security-clueless employees provide "social engineering" hackers with excellent targets.

Apple unveils the eMac. No, it's not actually just to create a confusingly-named product (eMac vs. emacs, kinda reminds me of PKzip .zip vs. Iomega Zip drives). It's an education-focussed mac, ie. cheap for what you get. Still, US$999 still isn't "cheap" in my book, nor your average poorly-funded school's book either I would imagine. But it's a step in the right direction - certainly it's nice to see a high-profile company creating a product specifically for educational purposes.

FAA Hacked By Patriots - Basically the US Federal Aviation Administration's system was cracked/hacked and defaced, demonstrating the weakness of their security. To quote (well, paraphrase) Emmanuel Goldstein, If military and government systems can't be hacked, then what's the harm attacking them? ...and if they can be hacked then we better hack them soon so we can figure out how to fix them. I'd much rather a hacker do it than an enemy agent.

The latest way to pay is at our fingertips, discussing a Seattle supermarket's new payment system - fingerprint scanning! The question is, will people feel comfortable with this? Will they be smart enough to realise that it will allow companies to track their habits even more than before? Can you tell I'm still going to pay for my fast food with cash? :)

CNN has a piece on tech support... Helpful support on tech endangered list? which highlights the fact that people are pissed off with the crap support they get for expensive pieces of tech (both hardware and software). It's hard to measure accurately and there are a lot of contributing factors, but tech support is where the buck stops. They have nowhere to run (poor souls). They're expected to fix the faults of products which may fundamentally flawed.

Personally I've been mad as hell ever since Micro$oft told us they could send us a patch to fix our copy of Word (which wouldn't spellcheck in Australian English), oh, one small catch - it will cost you $30. Compare this with Coke, who mailled me the $1.20 that one of their vending machines ate (big points also go to Queensland Rail, because it happened at a train station and the platform master made a couple of phone calls about it on my behalf - without me asking him to do so!). Which company knew that my repeat business was more valuable than what they'd gain by screwing me over once? Ahh, but as usual I digress.

Bastard Operator From Hell hits it on the head:

"When it boils down to it, you people are there to look after us - not vice versa. We're the real producers in the company! I mean sure, you have technical ability, but you can get that sort of thing anywhere - there's LOADS of technical people looking for jobs at the moment."

"Yes, there is a bit of a downturn, so I suppose we're lucky to be in work in the first place."

"You bet you are!" the marketing dweeb continues, digging the hole that much bigger, "Without us you'd be another geek on the streets. In fact, you should be thankful to us for making the work that keeps you in a job - instead of always telling us that we can't do things!"

"You mean like telling you that you can't just publish the address of some webpage and then get us to create it with zero days notice?"

It's so true. So true it hurts.

Do you remember the Segway? A single-person transportation device, which looks like an old style lawn mower? Well not surprisingly there a lot of safety concerns about the Segway. Hell, people can't walk along footpaths (sahhhdwalks if you prefer ;)) without bumping into each other. Footpath rage? Don't laugh.

Oh yeah, and the ACCRC (the group mentioned in the last item) have a pup called Scuzzy, which makes them even more cool (not the name, the fact they have a dog and put pics up ;)).

What's that? Do I miss my dog? Whatever gave you that impression?

Bill Gates has now gone back on what he has been vehemently arguing, admitting that a stripped-down version of windows is possible. The potential discounts to consumers are estimated, by Gates, in the hundreds of millions. The other interesting thing about this article is minor... the headshot used shows that Bill just isn't a young man anymore. He's not old, but he's looking more like a manager than a geek. *shrug* that's my shallow sidenote for today....

Hot on the heels of that last article is this one.... Musician to Napster judge: Let my music go. Basically this artist recorded two albums in the 1960s and never got a cent in royalties... so what the hell - give it away for free.

As Tom Smith sings... "I want my music on Napster / I want the world to say wow / Some say I'm losing money / Like I'm making it now .... You want your bloated profits / I just want to be known"

Boston Globe Online / Living | Arts / Burned? another article on music piracy, this time focussing on CD burning instead of MP3s. Although this is a relatively balanced article, it contains a few quotes which make me want to scream; if only for the stunning lack of understanding they display (both moral/ethical, technical and attitudinal).

Some of the record industry people are starting to sound like they know they can't win, though. They know they can't stop the tide; but they're not ready to go with it yet.

Arlington 'Bait Car' Hooks Suspect... A US police department has made a successful arrest using a bait car loaded with GPS positioning and alarm equipment. Basically they set up a nondescript but suitable theft target vehicle, then left it there until it was stolen. The thief was astonished when police swooped on him just minutes later. Basically this is the same technology that high-end car alarm systems have been offering for a few years... it includes the ability to shut the car down, preventing high-speed pursuit situations. The question for me is how long it will take thieves to learn how to identify bait cars, then disable the equipment and steal the lot - the car and expensive electronics.

IBM, Hitachi in storage pact. Basically IBM is pulling out of the hard drive market; preferring a non-controlling partnership (30% ownership) joint venture with Hitachi. Basically the hard drive market is too tough for big blue to keep up their hdd production arm. It's a pity really - the more companies merge, the less choice consumers have. I rather like IBM drives - nice and quiet for a start. I hate the loud grinding noise of cheap hard drives - absolutely fucking hate it.

No-Doz don't help some people stay awake... However a new drug, Provigil, is being touted as a pill to keep you awake longer without side effects. The question is whether anyone other than diagnosed narcoleptics (the only people currently permitted to use it) will benefit from the drug... and does anyone else have a legitimate need? If this drug does what it's supposed to, corporate high flyers will be lining up for them - wherever they can get their hands on them.

If you're not familiar with alertness/anti-sleep drugs, think of it this way: stimulants buzz you and then you crash off the high. Alertness drugs work on certain parts of the brain to keep you awake "naturally", so when they wear off you just go back to a normal sleep cycle. Staying awake is not the same thing as getting pumped on stimulants.

The article goes into the ethical questions that this sort of development brings to light. If a pilot on a long flight could be kept alert using this drug, is it right to refuse to supply them? Is it right to expect them to take a drug instead of being relieved at the controls by another pilot?

Slashdot | The Music Business and the Internet. Many links discussing the US music industry holding a press conference claiming that people are copying music rather than buying it. I think people are getting sick of hearing it. If CDs were cheap, who would ever pirate them?

It costs AUD$2 or less for a good blank CD, but AUD$30+ to purchase an album. Even singles have risen to AUD$10+ ...for what, three or four tracks? We already know that the artists get a pitiful amount of money off sales; certainly nothing like the amount the labels rake in. The price of CDs was meant to fall in Australia after the GST was introduced, but I certainly haven't seen it.

The artists and fans have been footing the bill, so why did the industry ever imagine there was any loyalty to the labels? They've said loud and clear "fuck you" for years. So now the fans and artists can deal directly; they're saying "fuck you" right back.

This PHP Tutorial gets a link for two reasons... one, although I haven't read the whole thing it does seem pretty good. But second, I love the way cultural references seep into intereting places.... in this tut, as in many such tuts, an example variable is required. In the past you could basically count on "foo" "bar" and "Hello world." ... but here we have $name = "Harry Potter"; :)

Apparently Austin Powers will feature in "Goldmember" after all. MGM had previously fought the name "Austin Powers in Goldmember", fearing that it was just a bit too suggestive and would cause harm to their own movies featuring James Bond. The final includes a clause giving MGM the final say on future parodies of JB movie titles, to avoid this sort of argument. Which is a pretty amazing clause, but their sense of humour did extend to letting "The Spy Who Shagged Me" go to cinemas, so I guess we'll have to see if it becomes a problem.

How to make your very own nuclear bomb, instructions in the public domain thanks to the British Ministry of Defence. Some things just don't need to be spread around; but on the flip side a really dedicated person will find this stuff out ANYWAY. What they really need to do is put up "how to defuse a nuke" instrcutions... :)

Dear god, what a load of CRAP. The makers of Spider-Man are being sued over billboards in the movie being covered with alternate images. Basically, they are trying to argue that the film makers don't have the right to modify the background in their own film. Stunning. While I don't have any love for product placement, I really don't agree with this. When you purchase space on a billboard, you do not purchase any instance of that billboard appearing on film/video or whatever. If the film in question was a factual documentary on advertising, then there might be an argument over authenticity. What next? What if I see the billboard, but describe it to a friend incorrectly... are they going to sue me for incorrect memory?

The timing of A List Apart is freaky... This weekend I spent a great deal of time digging through various hard-geek documents and specs, trying to get my head around doctypes. Then this morning I cruise on over to ALA, e voila! Fixing Your Site With the Right DOCTYPE. Not only but also... their forums are back! ALA, with forums for extra shine!

On a related note, I didn't know that there are tutorials on the W3C site! That's surprisingly friendly. Most of W3C's content is very hardcore geek.

Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox discusses Website Usability for Children. This article turns up some interesting points; including the fact that kids don't have an innate mastery of technology; and they can't differentiate between content and ads. Adults have become so used to ignoring banners they don't think to educate their kids about them - the kids just see more bright, animated content. Contrary to popular opinion, kids do not have a magical ability to understand and operate all things technical - a bad website will confuse them even more than it confuses adults. On top of this, kids bore even more easily than adults; if a site is hard to use then kids are gone. They know there are hundreds more pages where that one came from; so why are they going to keep using the crappy one? An interesting read all 'round.

There is further discussion on NBC news, which features an interview with Jakob Neilsen. Surprisingly, Neilsen doesn't suggest that sites should be dumbed down; just that parents need to educate their kids about the web, while designers should make their navigation systems clear and simple (which is not the same as dumb).

The scene: a fibreglass ronald mcdonald convenion. Two ronalds creak off to a corner with their ales..... ron one: " thing I know this girl walks up and[[[Test pattern, soothing music, we are sorry for this break in transmission]]] ron two: "you're kidding me, right? all i get is drunk guys trying to smash my skull in with a brick!"

You can just never anticipate the stuff that turns up in livejournal posts. With respect to the DGen crew for the inspiration for this post's format. Late Show fans know what I'm talking about.

(Cut to shot of Tommy G smoking a pipe)

This is a serious motherboard: Abit MAX AT7. Basically it's what you get if you take a consumer mb to the next level - no legacy ports, stacks of USB ports, firewire ports, 6 ATA channels and a whole lot more. Nice... and good to see a company willing to put a product like this out there.

Now for some good news. Hospitals are easing the stress on workers by having a robot make routine deliveries around the building. In this case the robot delivers non-urgent drug orders, freeing human staff for higher-end duties. It's a little scary, but only because we're not used to it :) It'll get scary when the surgeons are robots. No, strike that. It'll get terrifying, at least for a few years...

Gator: Just Click No. The latest intrusion on our net lives is pop-up downloads, because people are still stupid enough to give money to SPAM companies. Imagine a world with no popups, no animated banners, no popunders, no mousetrapping, no telemarketing, no junk mail...... *happy sigh* Hey, what's that dialogue box? *grr*

Aadvark has a piece on Life On the Net in 2004... basically, if Microsoft, telcos and the music industry get their way; this is how life could be. It's mostly scary because it's not far-fetched, it's simply the sum of all the attempts by industry to fuck us all for as much money as they can possibly squeeze out of our insignificant little consumer wallets. OK, calming down now.

SatireWire | Screeners now failling to catch anything. "The revelations were disturbing for DOT inspector general Kenneth Mead, who praised his employees for their previous work in uncovering security lapses, but suggested investigators had perhaps lost sight of their original mission. At a staff meeting yesterday, Mead urged agents to "give it a rest," and, at some point, return the Washington Monument."

The things people do... in the spirit of the guy I linked to a while back who built his own roller coaster, this guy built a monorail in his back yard. What I can't help thinking is what happens if they ever move? Can you imagine the real estate listing? Low-set house, three bedrooms, two bathrooms, double garage, monorail.

Free speech and the Internet: A fish story. A case of "person states opinion online, get sued". Basically someone griped about the crap service they'd received while dealing with a company; and that company slapped a US$15,000,000 lawsuit on them. Yes, that's six zeros, count 'em. Then when they tried to rally support to defend themselves, the company re-filed claiming there was a conspiracy against them. Ultimately the individuals involved settled - that is, they paid out thousands because they couldn't afford the tens of thousands required to fight it all the way. This is basically a reeking pile of horse shit dumped on the notion of free speech - you can be sued for having an opinion. Thoughtcrime, anyone?

English scientists have developed a "silence machine", which can generate "anti-noise" to cancel out unwanted sound. Basically sound waves have a phase; the machine generates sound which is exactly out of phase with the original sound, and the noise is cancelled. I wonder if you could measure the drop in neighbour fights if this was easily available? I seem to recall reading a book about this exact idea when I was a kid...

Celine Dion's latest release through Sony is on a copy-protected CD which crashes some computers or simply won't play in the CD-ROM. Now, ignoring the fact that if you're trying to play Celine Dion music you deserve whatever you get, this is an unacceptable tactic. Fair Use means being able to play the music you've bought; wherever you might reasonably want to. Like in the CDROM of your computer at work, for instance. I guess Sony's discman sales are down, eh?

Just when you thought ads couldn't get more annoying. Now there's a plan to release software which modifies the browser itself, to varying degrees of brutality. Mitigating features allowing the user to turn it back off are being included, but this doesn't change the fact that without any permission from the user, their software will be seriously hacked. Changing the scrollbar colours is one thing. Changing the rest of the browser is another. "Intrusive" just doesn't cover it.

Internet Explorer 6 Technical Overview, including how to disable IE6's image toolbar to help stop casual image theft (see "what's new for developers"). Of course, if someone's determined to steal the image you're screwed no matter what; but you can at least make it more effort than it's worth for your average user. By the time you're trawling the code, digging through your cache, or taking screenshots; you're so determined to have that pic you should contact the artist, mmmkay?

It's the Dungeons & Dragons suicide hysteria all over again - a player of online game EverQuest committed suicide; and now his mother is suing Sony (the game's maker). At least her goals are realistic - she wants health warnings placed on the game, warning against extended play. Fair enough. This article does at least point out that a balanced, happy person playing the game will not be turned into a suicidal maniac; but for an unstable individual it could provide triggers for attacks of depression, yes, perhaps even suicide. But the game alone is not responsible.

There's a followup on the strip-search incident involving Steve Mann, who is living his live as a cyborg - or at least as close as possible with modern equipment. More on "A Cyborg Unplugged" reports that he seems to have suffered an as-yet unidentified level of brain damage from the incident. In all seriousness, this man has become dependent on his wearable electronics; it seems this enforced separation proves that he truly is a combination of man and machine. It's just a pity it couldn't have been proved in a different manner.