14 April 2003

So how bad do you want one of these:

It's the Masterpeace personal computing environment! Much more over on Roland Piquepaille's blog. It looks like a geek variation of those gravity-boot frames that used to be around in the 80s -- you'd strap yourself into the boots then hang upside down. I can SO see myself in the middle of the Irish Times newsroom, swivelling my Masterpeace throne around to address a business editor or two!


7:46:49 PM  #   your two cents []
Irish journalist Philip Boucher-Hayes reports coming across thousands and thousands of mortar shells in Tikrit, all from the Royal Jordanian Army, still sitting in abandoned Iraqi positions -- he counted about 6,000 in all, given the number of boxes. Jordan of course is an Arab nation friendly to the US. It looks suspicious, but on the other hand, the shells could have been purchased by another country and sold or given to Iraq. He reads out the lot and serial numbers so presumably they can be traced. There's a live report -- including quite a long segment as Boucher-Hayes walks alone through the palace in Tikrit -- available later this evening here. It begins about 50 minutes into the broadcast. It will probably be well after 8pm GMT before a recording is available; and perhaps later.
6:20:22 PM  #   your two cents []

Small successes outweighed. Confusion, looting and tension about Syria overshadow the few achievements of this war, says Brian Whitaker. [Guardian Unlimited] Small personal note -- Whitaker, who was (and may still be! I haven't checked the masthead in a while) the managing editor of the Guardian, has spent much time in the Middle East over the years, and is very knowledgeable on Arab history, culture and language. At one point he'd set up a website on Yemen, a kind of cultural gateway.

While we're on the topic of the background of some of the journos reporting the war, the Irish Times' superb Lara Marlowe -- an American based in Paris, and one of the few writers whom I will read on absolutely any subject -- probably has more warzone and armed conflict experience, and more time served as a professional in those tense situations, than 90% of the military personal who were out in the Gulf. In addition, she speaks some Arabic. That's why, if you are an Irish Times reader, you got so many vivid reports of what was happening on the streets and what the Iraqis themselves were saying, and it's why this brave woman often gets into places, and gets the interviews, that many other Western journalists don't. Hats off to Lara -- a total pro. (And an aside -- she was once asked to cover an Apple conference that I couldn't make in Paris, and filed a sharp and insightful piece that got the key issues exactly right. I have no idea if she has any interest at all in Apple or computing, but she was right on top of the brief.)

This is why, when people like Donald Rumsfeld claim that the media is making up and grossly exaggerating stories about looting (as he memorably said, the TV stations must be showing the same vase being stolen over and over and over. A lot of vases in Iraq! he jested, full of mirth), I tend to trust the reports of the journalists (or in this case, the Red Cross saying the situation was desperate). Rumsfeld, like all government representatives (most especially in time of war) has every reason to spin. The best professional journalists, like Marlowe, take pride in bearing witness. Of course there are media agendas as well, and there are pleanty of journos I wouldn't trust (just about anyone involved in cable TV broadcasts in the US, for example).

But here's a scale, and on one side, I put a trusted journalist source, full of years of combat reporting experience, well-read and historically and culturally informed, who speaks the native language. On the other side, I put (take your choice) 1) a US, UK or Irish govt official; 2) or heck, any politician!; 3) a military spokesperson; 4) an armchair pundit 7,000 miles away from the conflict, with no combat experience, no background in Middle East politics, maybe some high school Spanish as sole second language -- and I know whose assessment I will go with. Incidentally, I also think Irish radio's military strategy commentary from retired Irish commanders and military strategists-- Ireland has many, many years' experience as peacekeepers in the Middle east -- is also excellent -- informative, neutral, nuanced.


2:52:35 PM  #   your two cents []

Mother of invention. How the Mosaic browser triggered a digital revolution. [CNET News.com] How many remember Mosaic? The first time I saw it running was on a Mac in the Graduate Student Union's office at Trinity College, and I was just blown away. Thanks to 1) being a student with academic access to computers, and 2) having an academic father also with internet access back when long distance calls from Ireland were *really* expensive; and 3) having gone out with various computer programmers [grin -- I've always liked computer programmers...!], I'd been using the internet for several years, belonged to some mailing lists, knew how to ftp and had mangled emails with just about every email package going at the time (ooooh, remember PINE?). FTP had really amazed me -- that you could go look in the computer files of another computer halfway around the world, and download them to your computer!! (I know, I know; but I wasn't an embryonic hacker, really).

Then along came Mosaic. "You have to check this out," said one of the computer science postgrads on the GSU committee, turning on the Mac. Whoa! Hyperlinks! Gussied-up text, and colours, and little images! Bye-bye, command line interface. I used to go up to the office at night and look at ALL the new "What's Cool" sites, which might be about 10, and which were probably ALL the new websites that had come into being that day in the whole world. It was a gas. Not too long after that I tried repeatedly to get the technoculture.com, .net or .org url, but those were already gone. The idea that there would ever be a browser war, or web-related IPOs, or even [gasp!] weblogs would have seemed pretty impossible. What a long, strange trip it's been...


2:37:17 PM  #   your two cents []

Today is my last free day of nearly two relaxing weeks off (got to love those weeks and weeks of European holiday time, which allow one to take a good chunk off on a whim and still have five to eight weeks left during the year, depending on employer. So utterly civilised). I didn't go anywhere except on an internal holiday. You know, where you don't fly away and travel abroad, but delve around inside where you actually live, meeting friends, enjoying the sun, seeing art exhibits, having people drop in for dinner, visiting the botanical gardens, having afternoon tea and the most heavenly pastries in all of Dublin (the pear and almond tartlet... oooooohhhhhh) at the fabulous Maison des Gourmets (tiny upstairs room for extraordinary lunches and teas, and just try to force yourself to walk past the mouthwatering goodies and loaves of fresh bread in the downstairs shop without buying, as you leave...). It's in that little laneway, across from the Bistro and the George's Street Arcade. Today, I'll go for a swim, then visit either the Hugh Lane gallery, which I haven't seen in years, or the Museum of Modern Art at Kilmainham. But really, I am about ready to do some work again -- tomorrow [grin].

If you're thinking of an away-holiday, Aer Lingus has slashed prices again -- Madrid or Amsterdam sound tempting to me at the moment. US prices are pretty good, too, especially to New York or Boston.


10:51:51 AM  #   your two cents []
Writer William Gibson links to this incredibly cool picture -- can you guess what it is before reading the caption? Bet you can't!
10:42:31 AM  #   your two cents []
What word is most commonly misspelled during net searches?
10:39:01 AM  #   your two cents []
What is this Dance of the Seven Veils marketing crap -- besides further evidence that even businesses (especially music businesses) trying to base themselves around the web don't understand how to take advantage of the net's intrinsic strengths, differences, and uniqueness in order to offer a product or service?! This, from Shifted Librarian, sums up what is so thick-headed about so many businesses in their approach to the Internet. USE the medium, damn it; take advanatge of those faeatures which are distinctively web to let you do just what she is asking to be able to do! The Bucks Stop Here: "I really wanted this service to work for me, but the music industry hasn't figured out the "point" yet, as opposed to JSP Records, who has."
10:36:42 AM  #   your two cents []
Human code fully cracked. Cambridge scientists in global consortium spell out the 3bn letters of the genome. [Guardian Unlimited]
10:27:09 AM  #   your two cents []
Mark Twain. "Whenever you find that you are on the side of the majority, it is time to reform." [Quotes of the Day]
10:26:21 AM  #   your two cents []
James Reston. "This is the devilish thing about foreign affairs: they are foreign and will not always conform to our whim." [Quotes of the Day]
10:25:38 AM  #   your two cents []
In Searching the Web, Google Finds Riches. The band of technoinsurgents who run Google are striking a blow against the giant Web portals by rewriting the rules of Internet advertising.  [New York Times: Technology]
10:24:56 AM  #   your two cents []
Making sense of broadband. So many broadband providers disappeared after the dot-com boom that casual observers might think broadband itself has met with indifference from Internet users. Nothing could be further from the truth, according to experts at McKinsey. [CNET News.com] -- Hmmmm. Due to a variety of extremely frustrating circumstances, Ireland is only now getting a sanely-priced broadband product (which reminds me, I need to phone Eircom and get them to put me on the lower-cost broadband service...). Because we have not even had, until now, a flat rate dial-up product (lagging the rest of Europe by, oh, four-five years), the Irish net market has had modest growth (measured in usage) and general indifference towards the take-up of til-now very costly high-speed options like ISDN and DSL. This situation is not helped at all by the fact that they've only been marketed -- even NOW, at 54.45, ex-VAT (yeah, go figure where they got that weird sum) -- as business products, at least by Eircom. I wonder if Esat will be smart and start pushing its slightly lower-priced DSL offering as a home service, not just a business service. Home is where the real growth lies, I think.
10:23:40 AM  #   your two cents []
Research Shows Hazards in Tiny Particles. A new review of research on nanoscale materials suggests that tiny particles are often toxic because of their size. [New York Times: Technology]
10:11:34 AM  #   your two cents []
That'd be RSA to the rest of us! -- Computer Science Prize to Honor 3 Forerunners of Internet Security. The Association of Computing Machinery plans to announce today that Ronald L. Rivest, Adi Shamir and Leonard M. Adleman will receive the 2002 A. M. Turing Award for their development work in public-key cryptography. [New York Times: Technology]
10:10:30 AM  #   your two cents []
Apple Said to Discuss a Music Deal, but Not Too Seriously. Apple Computer has discussed an investment in Universal Music, but a deal is unlikely to be concluded, people close to the discussions said. [New York Times: Technology]
10:08:47 AM  #   your two cents []