Weblogs; usenet done over?

I was reading discussions of news aggregators and RSS and lack of presentation in aggregators and webpage scrapers and trackbacks come-tos and on and on and it suddenly occured to me:

We’ve managed to re-invent UseNet, only instead of topic-oriented newsgroups, we have a system where each newsgroup is an individual’s (or a small group’s) personal playground. Only it’s been done poorly.

That’s a whole lot of effort to get to the same place :-)

This seems to happen all the time. We’ve spent the last 20 years re-inventing the OS security models that used to exist in mainframes. Web-forums are a poor replacement for e-mail lists with searchable archives. As has already been discussed elsewhere, the result of Trackback and friends is a bunch of people talking at each other instead of having a conversation, a poor replacement for both e-mail and usenet. XML? I could go on and on, I’m sure.

Which finally leads to the meta-issue: Once again we’ve reached the point where if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. In this case, the hammer is HTTP, and the nail includes e-mail, usenet news, FTP, WAIS/archie, RPC, and yes, even IP (see http-tunnel).

If I had a hammer, I’d hammer in the morning…

Update: In an amusing twist, I discovered today that DJ is Tinkering with RSS and NNTP, thus proving that we really have come full circle. (Thanks to 0xDECAFBAD for the link.)

posted at 5:02 pm on Tuesday, January 28, 2003 in Random Thoughts | Comments (1)
  1. Murphy says:

    On the topic of the RSS and NNTP couple, you may want to check this:
    It really works like a charm…

We’re All Above Average

We’re All Above Average


The most telling polling result from the 2000 election was from a Time magazine survey that asked people if they are in the top 1 percent of earners. Nineteen percent of Americans say they are in the richest 1 percent and a further 20 percent expect to be someday. So right away you have 39 percent of Americans who thought that when Mr. Gore savaged a plan that favored the top 1 percent, he was taking a direct shot at them.

Why do so many people believe this, when it’s simply not true? The top 1% of Americans make more than $300,000 (or $400,000 depending on who you ask) per year. The top 5%: $128,336. Top 10%: $92,114.

If you look at wealth it’s even more skewed; the top 1% of Americans own 40% – 50% of the total, and more than the bottom 95% combined.

Let’s look at these figures the other way around, though. This means that one out of every hundred Americans earns more than $300,000 per year. That’s pretty impressive; I’d have expected more like one in five hundred or one in a thousand…

It would be interesting to find Canadian versions of these statistics.

posted at 2:16 pm on Friday, January 24, 2003 in Politics | Comments (1)
  1. Reid says:

    Oh, thats easy. Just divide by ten!
    The top 1% of Canadians prolly make more than $30,000 (US), the top 5% $12,834 and the top 10% make $9,211.

    Geez, I hope I am wayyyy off.

FreeBSD has hibernate support

ACPI and FreeBSD – looks like the newly released version of FreeBSD is the first major UNIX distribution to support ACPI hibernate. Cool; I’ve only had an ACPI laptop for two years…

Right now I run Windows 2000 on my laptop, and run RedHat Linux (under VMware); all this so that I can run my unix-based e-mail software in a portable, hibernatable environment. I’d like to simplify a bit.

the Linux 2.5 kernel has ACPI support (they apparently had to do a major rewrite of the driver architecture to support it), but 2.5 isn’t stable enough for my purposes yet.

So, maybe my next block of “play around with the computer” spare time will go to a FreeBSD install…

On the other hand, while writing this article, I discovered swsusp, a program that lets you do suspend-to-disk without BIOS support. Time to check that out too.

posted at 1:45 pm on Friday, January 24, 2003 in Science and Technology | Comments Off on FreeBSD has hibernate support

Anti-DRM Lobby Group

Blah blah DRM. I liked this quote, though:

“Hollywood leaders … would have organized the monks to burn down Gutenberg’s printing press, if they were alive during that period of rapid change and innovation,” ITAA President Harris N. Miller said.

From New Lobbying Group Takes on Digital Fight; the IT Association of America has taken a stand against current hollywood-style DRM.

One of my co-workers thinks that none of this will matter, since by 2005 Microsoft will have redefined copyright :-)

posted at 9:35 am on Friday, January 24, 2003 in Politics | Comments Off on Anti-DRM Lobby Group

Equal Access

Perverse Access Memory: January 22

That the article is a discussion about unequal access ot abortions before Roe vs. Wade is irrelevant. This quote, in our out of context, is wonderful:

Laws should be made for everybody, not just for the people who haven’t the wherewithal to get around them. That may be an unpopular ideology in some quarters, but its lack of popularity makes it no less American and no less right.

posted at 10:45 pm on Wednesday, January 22, 2003 in Politics | Comments Off on Equal Access

Dances with Systems

I found an article: Whole Earth: Dancing with Systems

self-organizing, nonlinear, feedback systems are inherently unpredictable. They are not controllable. They are understandable only in the most general way. The goal of foreseeing the future exactly and preparing for it perfectly is unrealizable. The idea of making a complex system do just what you want it to do can be achieved only temporarily, at best. We can never fully understand our world, not in the way our reductionistic science has led us to expect. Our science itself, from quantum theory to the mathematics of chaos, leads us into irreducible uncertainty. For any objective other than the most trivial, we can’t optimize; we don’t even know what to optimize. We can’t keep track of everything. We can’t find a proper, sustainable relationship to nature, each other, or the institutions we create, if we try to do it from the role of omniscient conqueror.

Systems thinking leads to another conclusion, however – waiting, shining, obvious as soon as we stop being blinded by the illusion of control. It says that there is plenty to do, of a different sort of “doing.” The future can’t be predicted, but it can be envisioned and brought lovingly into being. Systems can’t be controlled, but they can be designed and redesigned. We can’t surge forward with certainty into a world of no surprises, but we can expect surprises and learn from them and even profit from them. We can’t impose our will upon a system. We can listen to what the system tells us, and discover how its properties and our values can work together to bring forth something much better than could ever be produced by our will alone.

We can’t control systems or figure them out. But we can dance with them!

This article sums up, in a nice way, what I do for a living. Cool.

From an article by Donella Meadows, published in Whole Earth Winter 2001, via heavybit.com.

posted at 9:26 am on Tuesday, January 21, 2003 in Programming | Comments Off on Dances with Systems


Mark has got me thinking again. What do I want my personal website to look like?

When I find interesting things on the web or in email, I like to share them with people I know. I used to send them to chatter, whereas now I mostly post them here. I think that’s a regression; more people read chatter than read my weblog. On the other hand, the sets don’t overlap much; The “right” answer, then, is to do both!

I like the exercise in writing that a weblog gives me. In that context, I don’t really care if people are reading or not; writing my thoughts down allows me to organise them in my brain a bit better. On the other hand, feedback from readers is good, because I sometimes have some pretty whacked out mis-perceptions on the world. So in a choice between private diary and public weblog, I’ll stick with the latter.

Do I care if I’m an A-list blogger? Never. Do I want something interesting for people to find on Google? Yes. Do I care if a potential employer reads this site? Well, yes. Is there a conflict between all of these sentiments? yes :-)

I’m not unhappy with what I’ve got so far. But I’m going to put a little more effort into writing about lighthouses.

posted at 12:01 pm on Monday, January 20, 2003 in Personal | Comments (2)
  1. David Brake says:

    I remember going through the same thought process two years ago, Harald ;-) I concluded that it was better to put stuff on my weblog as long as it wasn’t too personal or not of general interest because that way my friends would have the choice whether or not to read them and I could share stuff with a whole new audience too. Of course the possible whuffie benefits didn’t escape my attention either… ;-)

  2. James says:

    Given the number of complete ***holes inhabit the inner circle of bloggers known collectively as the “A-list,” you’re probably in better company among the obscurantists. I don’t much see the point in deliberately playing to an audience in this format. If you’re in serious need of affirmation from others, then sure, but other than that…why bother?

    A blog like yours makes more sense: write what’s interesting you, or happens to be on your mind, and if some people enjoy that, great. Blogging really ought to be, at least in my mind, a more intimate experience than many make it, a chance to sort of dip into the stream of someone’s consciousness.

More on Schools

An article on one teacher’s experience in the D.C. public school system, from FrontPage magazine.com. I don’t know what to say about this one. Yuck.

posted at 9:29 am on Thursday, January 16, 2003 in Rants | Comments (1)
  1. Tara says:

    Hello im confused like always

Blogging Politics

In Perverse Access Memory: Bored Now Ginger writes about why she stopped blogging about politics.

Some of the stuff in there is why I rarely blog about politics (and especially about all of those idiots south of the border :-), and why I also avoid arguing about it on discussion lists.

Generally, I’ll argue with someone for one of two reasons: 1) to genuinely try to change their mind on something (“no really, a triple whopper with cheese is bad for you”); or 2) because arguing a point is a good way to learn more about it. On rare occassions, I’ll get into it with someone in e-mail because I’m bored; fortunately that never lasts very long.

For the really big issues, option 2) is sometimes interesting. But generally speaking, neither of those reasons applies to rants about the issues of the day, and so I try not to…

posted at 9:25 am on Thursday, January 16, 2003 in Miscellaneous | Comments Off on Blogging Politics

Harry Potter

According to Bloomsbury:

J K Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix to be published on 21st June, 2003 in Britain, the USA, Canada and Australia.

The world’s most anticipated book is over one third longer than the previous book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

Oh good, another book to bludgeon children to sleep with…

Update: Don’t get me wrong; I like the Harry Potter books. It’s just that each one seems to be as thick as all of the previous books put together…

posted at 9:22 am on Thursday, January 16, 2003 in Books | Comments (1)
  1. Blatherings says:

    Asian fish, Local Hero, school clubs
    Asian Fish, Local Hero, and school clubs. Blatherpic: 1977 The Bramalea Guardian clipping. Poll question: What clubs were you a member of back in school?

Ethical Philosophy in 30 seconds or less

The Ethical Philosophy Selector, the closest match to my views on morality is Aquinas. Of course, reading the description, I don’t think that’s true, but it’s hard to make these quizzes.

In fact, I don’t really agree with any of the top 5:

  • Aquinas (100%)
  • Sartre (87%)
  • Hume (83%)
  • Nietzsche (77%)
  • Augustine (69%)

Ah well. Surveys fun. Must click mouse…

posted at 9:20 am on Thursday, January 16, 2003 in Odd | Comments Off on Ethical Philosophy in 30 seconds or less

The Cost of Lost Passwords

According to an article in silicon.com titled IT Helpdesks suffering user password hell (login as guest and search for the article):

Up to 80 per cent of calls received by helpdesk staff are from end users who’ve forgotten their passwords – and with each support call costing organisations around £15, the problem is not as trivial as it may sound.

Yes, it’s a UK study. The study goes on to conclude that what’s required is a fast system for resetting passwords. I maintain that what’s required is better authentication techniques, such as smart-card based keypairs. Sadly, while we’ve had the technology commercially available for more than a decade, we still can’t get vendors to use it.

posted at 9:18 am on Thursday, January 16, 2003 in Security | Comments Off on The Cost of Lost Passwords


According to Greg Costikyan, Snood is the 9th most played game in the world.

Which begs the question, why doesn’t it get the level of awe and respect assigned to th Big Games?

Interesting read. via /.

posted at 4:32 pm on Tuesday, January 14, 2003 in Gaming | Comments Off on Snood

The Future

We’re just 12 years away, but I’m reasonably sure that hovercars aren’t going to be an option, nor will 512K Macs sit in antique store windows. 2015 will look like 1990, because you can’t photograph wireless networks. The best part of the future is always invisible.

From a brief discussion of Back to the Future II by James Lileks. I found it via the Quote of the Day mailing list.

posted at 11:00 am on Monday, January 13, 2003 in Science and Technology | Comments (1)
  1. jok says:

    I’m just going to disagree. My computer screen (apps), gadgets and home electronics all look a lot different given any 3 year period over the last 20 years. Not all of us live in conservative shitholes like Detroit you know. This guy wants to move back to Fargo it seems: http://www.lileks.com/fargo/index.html

The Best Paper Airplane?

Visit the site and build The best paper airplane in the world!.

This is similar to a design I used to fly as a kid, and that one worked very well. This one adds a few extra folds to move the center of gravity low and forward, which improves stability and hang time.

posted at 9:55 am on Monday, January 13, 2003 in Science and Technology | Comments Off on The Best Paper Airplane?

Friendly Fire

My (quick) thoughts on the incident.

I have to commend the pilots’ defense lawyer for digging up all sorts of interesting information about the case: the use of “Go pills”; the lack of information given to the pilots; and so on. The US military has a history of ignoring systemic issues in these cases, and punishing the poor shmucks at the bottom of the chain of command. (The problems identified in the investigation after the 1999 Italian gondola case still haven’t been addressed.)

However, one thing remains clear; the pilot in question disobeyed a direct order not to fire, and four soldiers (from a foreign ally) lost their lives. The case needs to go to trial, if only to get all of the facts out in the open. I personally would be happy to have all of this interesting, mitigating testimony affect their sentencing, but it should not affect the case going to trial.

posted at 10:26 pm on Saturday, January 11, 2003 in Rants | Comments Off on Friendly Fire

How to Grow a Bully

It’s not just Ontario that has gutted its school system. how to grow a bully describes one parent’s dealings with the public school system in New York (state) over the issue of bullying.

The summary through my eyes: The system there is punishing the victim and rewarding the bully. They’re doing it systematically; it’s not just the school principal, it’s the entire support structure. It’s disgusting.

There are several additional articles on the weblog; read them for the continuing drama.

It’s a stretch, but I did have to wonder; does the principal actually believe the crap he’s saying, or has he been handed a directive from above? Is he the problem, or just a cog in the machine, trying to survive like the rest of us?

Don’t write this off as an isolated incident; read the comments on all of those blog entries, or talk to your friends and relatives about their experiences; I would be surprised if you couldn’t find the pattern for yourselves.
From another commentary on the topic:

During the past thirty plus years, the public education system has gone from mediocre to abominable. If you think your children are being spared, if you think your school isn’t so bad, if you think things were bad when I was in public school, it couldn’t have gotten much worse than that, you are mistaken. Let me say that again, in case it isn’t clear: YOU ARE MISTAKEN.

My kids are in private school, and it’s working very well for them so far.

(Thanks to “Mama, don’t send your kids to public school” from The Safety Valve, which I found courtesy of Mark Pilgrim’s Recommended Reading software.)

posted at 10:14 pm on Saturday, January 11, 2003 in Rants | Comments Off on How to Grow a Bully

Trackback to Debbie

In Blatherings
Debbie mentioned that she was experimenting with Trackback. So here’s a ping!

I don’t know why pinging my blog didn’t work for you; I just tried it and it worked fine, and I don’t see anything in my apache logs from you accessing mt-tb.cgi. Strange?

Update: of course I can’t see the ping I just sent, because you don’t have a ‘Ping Template’ defined for blatherings :-)

posted at 1:07 pm on Saturday, January 11, 2003 in Site News | Comments (2)
  1. Debbie says:

    I must have done something wrong. Oh! Thanks for letting me know about the Trackback Template. There’s a lot I need to learn about Trackback. :-)

  2. Blatherings says:

    So I went into technonerdgirl mode yesterday and created Inkygirl (http://www.inkygirl.com). Yeah, yeah, I know I just finished writing a Blathering about shutting down

Another trackback test

Debbie says my trackback doesn’t work, but I didn’t see any entries in the apache log, so I’m testing.

The Blog of Harald: Trackback timeouts cause problems with my blog

posted at 1:00 pm on Saturday, January 11, 2003 in Site News | Comments Off on Another trackback test

Iraq vs. Korea

From the Quote of the Day mailing list:

“We will be facing considerable skepticism on the question of how we can justify confrontation with Saddam when he is letting [United Nations] inspectors into the country, and a diplomatic solution with Kim when he’s just thrown them out.”

– A senior United States diplomat, speaking anonymously on the United States stance toward Saddam Hussein of Iraq and Kim Jong Il of North Korea. (Source: The New York Times, January 3, 2003.)

I wonder how many people actually expect consistency in American foreign relations these days?

posted at 10:24 am on Friday, January 10, 2003 in Current Events | Comments Off on Iraq vs. Korea
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