The Pentagon and Social Network

OK. This is weird. On the one hand the RIAA/MPAA want alll the social networks shut down because people MIGHT use them to share stuff. And they are bankrolling lobbyists all over the world to make this stuff happen.

On the other hand, New Scientist has an article entitled Pentagon sets its sights on social networking websites because it has discovered that Pentagon’s National Security Agency (the spooks),who are masters in listening to everyone in the world’s phone conversations and code-breaking, is bankrolling research into the bulk harvesting of the information that people post about themselves on social networks. Think of it as spook spam collection.

And in a rather ironic twist it seems that the “semantic web” championed by web standards organisations and writing accessible websites makes it dead easier for them to combine data from social networking websites with details such as banking, retail and property records. This lets them make up profiles on people because lets face it half the profiles on myspace are lies or put there by the record companies (who want them shut down)

And I thought the nineties were weird.

Things and Everyware

It’s winter, the tele is full of sport, why not read something. Here are two good places to start with.

First off, I just found this speech given by Bruce Sterling at Emerging Technology 2006 back in March. Its at the The Viridian Design Movement: Viridian Note 00459. What’s viridian? well according to WIkipedia it’s green.

Bruce is talking about stuff and “The internet of things”. That’s “Stuff” as in real things that you can walk up and kick. Or at least you will be able to in about 30 years if his guess is right. It’s an interesting read and it begins like this…

Thanks for that kind introduction, Cory Doctorow. Hi, I’m Bruce Sterling. I write novels. Last time I was at an O’Reilly gig, I delivered a screed about open-source software.

One of the things I said in that speech was that, some day, open-source people were going to become political dissidents. Yeah, I meant real dissidents, man, very 1989 style, very Eastern European… That speech was some years ago, of course… Today I’m actually living in Eastern Europe. I’m living in Belgrade and trying to get some novel-writing done in between fits of blogging… Just as I was leaving Belgrade to come here, Richard Stallman arrived in town. Yeah, it’s Stallman, rms, Dr. GNU, he’s there to rattle the skeletons in the closets of the outlaw state…

not much about things there but it gets better.

And for choice number two, in Bruce’s speech he talks about Adam Greenfield’s book Everyware (some sample chapters are available for download). In an interview at AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Arts) Greenfield explained Everyware thus…

“Everyware” is information processing that has been removed from the context of the personal computer and distributed everywhere in the built environment. The qualities of information sensing, information processing and output, for example, have been taken from a box that we address in a one-by-one, one-to-one relationship, and have been, instead, embedded in the objects and services of everyday life. That includes things such as architectural space, ordinary everyday objects, clothing, street furniture, vehicles, you name it—all gathering information, sensing information, processing, responding and feeding them back out into the world.

And over at A List Apart they are publishing some extracts as well, here is a sample…

Everyware is an attempt to describe the form computing will take in the next few years. Specifically, it’s about a vision of processing power so distributed throughout the environment that computers per se effectively disappear. It’s about the enormous consequences this disappearance has for the kinds of tasks computers are applied to, for the way we use them, and for what we understand them to be.

Although aspects of this vision have been called a variety of names—ubiquitous computing, pervasive computing, physical computing, tangible media, and so on—I think of each as a facet of one coherent paradigm of interaction that I call everyware.

In everyware, all the information we now look to our phones or Web browsers to provide becomes accessible from just about anywhere, at any time, and is delivered in a manner appropriate to our location and context.

In everyware, the garment, the room and the street become sites of processing and mediation. Household objects from shower stalls to coffee pots are reimagined as places where facts about the world can be gathered, considered, and acted upon. And all the familiar rituals of daily life, things as fundamental as the way we wake up in the morning, get to work, or shop for our groceries, are remade as an intricate dance of information about ourselves, the state of the external world, and the options available to us at any given moment.

In all of these scenarios, there are powerful informatics underlying the apparent simplicity of the experience, but they never breach the surface of awareness: things Just Work. Rather than being filtered through the clumsy arcana of applications and files and sites, interactions with everyware feel natural, spontaneous, human. Ordinary people finally get to benefit from the full power of information technology, without having to absorb the esoteric bodies of knowledge on which it depends. And the sensation of use—even while managing an unceasing and torrential flow of data—is one of calm, of relaxed mastery.

This, anyway, is the promise.

Between Sterling and Greenfield this should keep me going for a while.
Happy reading.

2006 Cereal Sightings

What is going on? Here we are halfway through May and all we have is one pathetic little attempt reported yesterday and there isn’t a decent crop circle reporting anywhere. Don’t believe me head over to Crop Circle Connectors 2006 Crop Circles page and check out the depressing NO CIRCLES REPORTED sign.

Personally I think the aliens have all buggered off to either Greece to pose as a band from Finland and win Eurovision or Germany to try and get a decent seat for the World Cup.

Even circlemakers have gone quiet. I chatted about about them back in August last year.

So all you can do is head to last years pages at Crop Circle Connector http://www.cropcircleconnector.com/2005/2005.html and just check out what they have to beat this year… if they ever get started for real.

Delete your History in Windows

Monkey Wrench Every so often I get asked how to hide where you went today on the PC.

There are a variety of good reasons.

If I use a net-cafe I always flush the cache and history before I finish my session (just cause your paranoid doesn’t mean the nasties aren’t out there). Any way WikiHow has a great (and very detailed) article on How to Delete your Usage History Tracks in Windows. Cool title huh?

At the end of the article it lists a couple of utility programs that can do it all in a click or two (CCleaner is one that I use on a couple of machines).But I prefer to know how to do it.

Lets face it, the people at the net cafe aren’t going to let you load programs onto their PCs. But more and more of them will let you run stuff from your USB thingies. You might like to check out the Portable Apps article. Having your own mail client and browser in your pocket is really a good idea.

Oh by the way, I just read in Lifehacker about Stealther, it.s a plugin for Firefox.

Here’s the blurb…

If there are times you want to surf the web without leaving a trace in your local computer, then this is the right extension for you. What it does is temporarily disable the following:
– Browsing History (also in Address bar)
– Cookies
– Downloaded Files History
– Disk Cache
– Saved Form Information
– Sending of ReferrerHeader.

Everyone Wants Your PC

There was a song by Tears for Fears called “Everybody wants to Rule the World” ( you can have a listen over at lastfm)

But Wired News has an article Bruce Schneier called Everyone Wants to ‘Own’ Your PC which tries to document the battle raging on your computer right now. The one that pits you against worms and viruses, Trojans, spyware, automatic update features and digital rights management technologies.

Basically it’s about determining who owns your computer.

Dont get me wrong, I know you went out and paid your hard earned cash for your PC and you own it. But (there always has to be a but doesn’t there?) how much control do you really have over what happens on your machine? Lets face it you might have bought the hardware and software, but you have very little control over what it’s doing behind the scenes. Virus upgrades just happen, your mail just arrives, the Microsoft upgrades just keep rolling along and you would be hard pressed to tell me when the last one happened.

Using the hacker sense of the term, your computer is “owned” by other people.

Read the article. There is also a copy at http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2006/05/who_owns_your_c.html