Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Firefox download day reminder

If you aren't already aware, today Mozilla is attempting to start a new world record of the most software downloaded in a 24 hour period to correlate with the release of Firefox 3. After some early problems with their servers due to a massive demand, things are now running smoothly. Grab your new version by 6pm tonight (UK time) and help make history. You can also check the progress of the record attempt with the live download counter. At the time of writing the count stands at 6.3 million! Pretty good for a not-for-profit organization.


Sunday, June 15, 2008

France planning to block more than child pornography

Few would disagree that child pornography is unacceptable - it may encourage further paedophilia, scar a child mentally, involve unpleasant acts and exploitation to obtain such material and if shared/posted online expose the child to a global audience - hardly the kind of start they need. I also believe there should be greater online accountability regarding adult material posted without consent as well.

Anyway the point I am making is that blocking access to child pornography can be justified - certainly it threatens free expression, however it hurts vulnerable people.

Most nations have stopped with blocking this material. France however has tacked on "terror" and "racial hatred sites". Here I believe they may have overstepped the boundaries.

In regard to racial hate sites, the site owners are simply expressing an opinion - it may not be one the vast majority of people agree with - however to block access is censorship. The language is also quite ambiguous. Racial hate to some might mean the BNP. Also what about other types of hate - religious, gender, homophobia and so on. Are these going to be blocked as well? What other criteria will be added later?

More worrying however is the block of terror sites. Any political page could be labelled to be terrorist in nature by the incumbent leaders/party. For example should Iran's media or government site be blocked from western view? My view is no it shouldn't. Bush might disagree.

Additionally there should not be a distinction between "academic" and "non-academic" sites/ opinions. A working class mother is just as much entitled to express her opinion about immigration as a right wing academic who qualifies his views. When does a view become racist or extremist?

Clearly it is entirely subjective. The difference between France and, for example, China however is that France claims to be democratic, and this entails permitting minorities and dissenters from speaking, even if wrong.

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Be more positive - using bookmarks

If you are anything like me you might often feel that the vast majority of information you receive is negative. For example the media often criticises, friends regularly gossip and complain and comedy seems to rely on other's misfortune and opportunistic cynicism.

In an environment of such morbidity it is hard to keep positive and optimistic, however I have developed an intriguing solution which I will now share.

The basic premise involves studying your lifestyle and routine and observing when and where you get your information from.

So for example you might end up with something like:

Friends & Family
Speakers e.g. at public events
and lots of other smaller sources as well.

The next step is to review each of the areas you have identified - for example - tv - and specifically examine which shows make you happier/better informed/more positive and which make you lethargic or sad.

So for example you might find that after watching BBC News you are better informed, but also less happy. A good way to test your interest is to see how much of the news you remember the following day.

Assign each show a score out of 10 based on how positive you think a show is and the impact it has on you (are you happier?).

Now repeat the same steps for websites - which ones make you most positive and best empower you. Again score the sites.

Repeat for newspapers, magazines, friends, books and so on.

What you should end up with is a list of the places you get your information from along with a score of how positive each source is.

It is now simply a case of maximising your exposure with the sources that make you positive and minimizing contact with ones that make you less positive.

Some suggestions for doing this include checking out when your favourite tv shows will be on and avoiding shows which don't give you value, adding more positive bookmarks to your browser and removing sites which aren't helping, changing your newspaper or magazine subscriptions to ensure you get regular positive information, spending more time with people who make you happy, reading the books of authors you enjoy and also going to events you benefit from. In this way cultivating a positive attitude will become easier and when people do feel down you'll be ready to remind them of the good things.


Friday, June 06, 2008

Cameron Direct

I was impressed to learn David Cameron launched a new "Cameron Direct" idea in which he travels around the country to town halls answering questions anyone sets him with open access. However I will be looking to see how long he maintains it and also where he actually chooses to visit - if he only goes to marginal seats then he may well come in for criticism and who can forget the trialled and ended "Ask David" and "Webcameron forums"? Still at least the sentiment is right and certainly Cameron's effort appears to be trumping Brown's Downing Street questions to be answered later this month.


Sunday, June 01, 2008

Filtering content by IP location *sigh*

How often have you been trawling through the net, only to find yourself blocked by a message reading something like "this is only available to citizens of ..." or "this is not available outside ...". Now obviously I can understand some of the restrictions. The BBC for example prevents access to Iplayer to non-UK IP addresses on the basis that the people in Britain pay a tv license for the content.

Nonetheless there are quite a few examples of instances where it is unnecessary. For example during the 2004 presidential elections, George Bush's campaign website was not accessible to people outside the US. Why? It isn't as if there are eligible voters outside the US or even some interest from the rest of the world as to what the president's policies might be. Also Google believes it is being helpful when it automatically forces people who visit the .com site to go to their local site, yet clearly they have not requested local content. Access the language translation of numerous government pages and you'll normally find an entirely different version of the site, targeted at overseas citizens. Even youtube has started blocking videos on the basis of location - and speaking of youtube - I don't think the number of views a video receives is particularly accurate, but perhaps that is a rant for another time.

Regardless localised content is great when it is asked for, but websites which force it upon users or restrict access purely for nationalist reasons are going against the spirit of the internet.

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