8:32:48 PM # your two cents 
8:26:52 PM # your two cents 
8:26:04 PM # your two cents 
On March 23-24, 2003, the second in a series of international workshops on interstellar message design will be held in Paris. The workshop will focus on two broad themes: first, the interface of art, science, and technology in interstellar message design; and second, how to communicate concepts of altruism in interstellar messages. The workshop will focus on messages that could be transmitted across interstellar space by radio or laser signals. These communication techniques reflect the methods used by current observational programs in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). Link (via NTK)
8:22:21 PM # your two cents 
Gavin's link to Tom McGurk's amazing conversation last Sunday with venerable BBC correspondent Katie Adie, on the US censorship of how journalists present the situation in Iraq, has been picked up by Megnut, so imagine this will get a good and needed airing in the US. Basically, the Pentagon has told journalists they may well be fired upon as they try to upload information back to networks (presumably because the signals may be confused -- obviously not because the journalists are considered hostile to the US POV -- but really, this is a shocking sort of threat even as it stands). There's a link to the show transcript as well. Unfortunately, Megnut seems to doubt this could be true because the US media isn't reporting on it [mirthless laughter]. As an American journalist living abroad, who's been back several times to the US in recent weeks, I can tell ya, folks: the US MEDIA DOESN'T REPORT a whole heck of a lot of perspectives/stories/breaking news/background that would conflict with the Bush admin position and what it does report is done so as if reporting on the home team at a football match. I noted Dan Gillmor's wholly correct take on this recently; Gavin also links to it here. The worst perpetrators are Fox and CNN -- CNN of course also being the main source of many American's news on the pending war. What has become of this once-pioneering network? It is just a yapping lapdog these days.
3:10:14 PM # your two cents 
News from the home tech front: it's been a week of various tech catastrophes (oh, let's be positive and call them challenges), large and small, but mostly just annoying, as these things usually are. On the Mac front, I am pondering everyone's helpful comments on my Airport/DSL conundrum. Meanwhile, I have been simultaneously pulling my hair out over the Resident Evil that is Outlook 2003. Every time I have put it on my PC it begins to do various weirdnesses, including slowing everything down to a crawl, throwing up LDAP dialogue boxes (two, every time the app opens), and freezing the whole PC (at this point I begin to sympathise a bit too strongly with that Colorado bar owner and his Dell solution). I thought this might change when I installed it yet again via the whole integrated Office XP package (do the words 'glutton' and 'punishment' spring to mind?), but no. All the other things behave nicely but immediately, the Outlook Horrors began. Problem -- it had deleted my old Outlook 2000 and 'system restore' doesn't seem to want to work for dates after I put Linux on a spare partition (OS #3 headache. Having three OSes is like having unruly children with three totally different personalities, getting into fights the second my back is turned! All begging for my attention. Oh, behave!).
The good thing was I could copy all the data files from naughty, naughty Outlook onto another disk partition (I'm getting to like the partition concept. A lot). Then uninstalled, at last, that damn Outlook 2003. Reinstalled 2000. Bliss. Except now I get a conflict when I try to synch the calendar and contacts etc from my PocketPC handheld with Outlook 2000, with which it was perfectly happy before.
Then, over on another disk partition, waits Red Hat Linux. I am thinking about the DSL issue here too as an ethernet card and modem would handily resolve (I think) my linux distribution's problems with USB DSL modems. The thought of recompiling the kernel makes my hair stand on end -- I'd rather have sex with Charlie McCreevy. I need to work out what to do soon, as I am writing about my Linux trials, tribulations and pleasures for the Guardian for next week's tech section!
I think I need to lie down with Mother's Little Helper (my version -- a hot whiskey) and ponder this all, later this evening. For now, I'm going out to sort out email and snail mail in the office on this lovely but cold Dublin day. And I'm going to try to cook a duck for dinner! An experiment. Reports on all this excitement anon.
2:53:32 PM # your two cents 
1:22:51 PM # your two cents 
Transport Minister Seamus Brennan's astonishing response to a constituent concerned about Government proposals to gut the Freedom of Information Act:
"The amendments proposed by the Government are actually quite minor and will only affect issues which are part of the collective Cabinet responsibility process of Government, uncompleted issues, areas of Parliamentary Questions,records relating to Tribunals, matters relating to political parties, and records concerning security, defence and international relations. There is no change to the right of access for individuals to each and every personal/official record concerning them."
Minor?! Jeez, all those issues look kinda important to ME...!! And kind of like most of what Cabinet does... They are covered by five years of confidentiality in the current FOI anyway -- after that point, information relating to those affairs deemed not extremely sensitive should be available under the FOI -- and those are already the terms of the existing FOI. So leave it alone.
11:07:54 AM # your two cents 
In today's Irish Times [sub only; or full version free here], I take issue with a number of ways in which the Irish government, and in particular Minister for Justice Michael McDowell in his replies to parliamentary questions, are distorting the facts about data retention:
The Government is portraying this enormously important privacy and business issue as if it's really only a minor bit of bother in need of some cleaning up. To quote a letter the Department sent to some deeply concerned industry groups, the Bill would just maintain "the status quo". But this Bill has absolutely nothing to do with maintaining the status quo.
The Minister's formal reply to Deputy Bruton states: "The time limit being considered is three years which is shorter than the period which licensed operators historically retained such information for billing purposes."
Don't believe it. Licensed operators such as Eircom, Vodafone and O2 did indeed retain data for six years - but when he heard of it, Data Protection Commissioner Mr Joe Meade challenged this policy. According to data protection laws, he felt six months was allowable. Eircom agreed to this time limit last October, as stated in a notice it enclosed in subscriber bills.
In addition, this information was not held in immediately accessible form. After a time period of six months to a year, it was "atomised" - made anonymous by separating out the constituent parts so that no-one could look at the records and connect a specific person to a specific call.
And finally, traffic information on email and internet usage has never been retained, and many in industry and privacy groups consider this part of the proposal to be even more worrying than call data proposals.
So, to imply that an acceptable industry norm is now simply being formalised is a gross distortion. And to suggest that three years is somehow a BOOST to our privacy - as the Minister's replies to both deputies indicates - beggars belief.
10:37:01 AM # your two cents 
10:30:15 AM # your two cents 
10:28:11 AM # your two cents 
10:24:49 AM # your two cents 
10:21:57 AM # your two cents 
10:15:37 AM # your two cents 
Finance Minister Charlie McCreevy has got to be the most pompous, incapable little bureaucrat Ireland has thrown up (and I do mean thrown up) in the nearly two decades I've lived here. (Well, I'll alter that to include Pee Flynn...) But this is the man who drives the Irish economy --alone on a learner's licence and under the influence of equally unlearned Finance Dept civil servants (in other words, a man with the most cursory economics knowledge and who refuses to have any actual economists offer any advice, unlike finance ministers in most other countries). So do these comments surprise?
The Minister for Finance, Mr McCreevy, said yesterday that while the proposed amendments to the Freedom of Information Act might be very contentious for people in the media "it is not such a contentious Bill for people in the Government".
Speaking in Cheltenham, he told RTÉ's Prime Time that the Government decided to take a certain position on the matter and, in a democracy, it was the elected representatives of the people who took these decisions.
"That's our Bill, that's our position and that's democracy".
Do recall, dear reader, that this is a man who heads off to the horse races in Britain rather than support his own bill through debate in the Irish houses of parliament [the Dail] -- a neutering of Ireland's Freedom of Information Act, which is considered model legislation internationally. The only question is whether the same Irish people that re-elected this shameful and shameless crowd to a second term in government cares enough about real democracy to make its own elected representatives accountable (the part Charlie forgot in this obnoxious let-them-eat-cake harangue). To date, the electorate hasn't shown the slightest bit of interest. As they say, every country elects what it deserves... but surely Ireland doesn't deserve this.
9:49:50 AM # your two cents 
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