The fightback begins here

March 27th, 2015 [link]

At last!

After Nigel Farage’s exclusion from a television programme and the assassination of Jeremy Clarkson, elections have been suspended and traditional British common sense has been classed as hate speech.

Toynbee said: “We namby-pambies, we do-gooders, we pinkos have emerged from our ivory towers and hypocritically large houses to fill the power vacuum left by the downfall of the Chipping Norton set.

“From now on, you think only what our think-pieces tell you to think.”

Resistance leaders Rod Liddle and Peter Hitchens have gone underground using a secret network of national newspapers to continue bravely saying the things they say they are not allowed to say.

Alas, only a spoof

The Cameron-Blair nexus

March 27th, 2015 [link]

Who owns your data? Hint: not you

March 26th, 2015 [link]

Nice video from Jon Crowcroft and his colleagues on the HAT Project.

Creative destruction

March 24th, 2015 [link]

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Whenever I walk through an un-managed wood I’m reminded of Joe Schumpeter.

Gone fishin’

March 23rd, 2015 [link]

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Observed in a Norfolk village on Friday morning.

Internet Explorer RIP

March 22nd, 2015 [link]

This morning’s Observer column:

Let’s spool back a bit – to 1993. By then, the internet was roughly 10 years old, but for its first decade had been largely unknown to anyone other than geeks and computer science researchers. Two years earlier, Tim Berners-Lee had created and released the world wide web onto the internet, but initially no one noticed. Then in the spring of 1993, Marc Andreessen and Eric Bina released Mosaic – the first graphical browser – and suddenly the “real world” realised what the internet was for, and clamoured to get aboard.

But here’s the strange thing: Microsoft – by then the overwhelmingly dominant force in the computing world – failed to notice the internet. One of Bill Gates’s biographers, James Wallace, claimed that Microsoft didn’t even have an internet server until early in 1993, and that the only reason the company set one up was because Steve Ballmer, Gates’s second-in-command, had discovered on a sales trip that most of his big corporate customers were complaining that Windows didn’t have a “TCP/IP stack” – ie, a way of connecting to the internet. Ballmer had never heard of TCP/IP. “I don’t know what it is,” he shouted at subordinates on his return to Seattle. “I don’t want to know what it is. But my customers are screaming about it. Make the pain go away.”

But even when Microsoft engineers built a TCP/IP stack into Windows, the pain continued…

Read on

Osborne’s real plan

March 18th, 2015 [link]

Nice blog post by Simon Wren-Lewis arguing that the obsession with deficit-reduction is actually just a smokescreen for shrinking the state. Sample:

However perhaps we should have taken the chancellor at his word when he says that there has been no change to his long-term plan. The mistake was to misunderstand what this plan was. In reality it may have had nothing to do with the deficit, but instead was all about shrinking the size of the state over a ten-year period.

The problem the Conservatives faced in 2010 was that there was no public appetite for a smaller state. Surveys continued to show many more people wanted higher government spending and taxes than wanted the opposite (with a large percentage wanting neither). A focus on the government deficit presented them with an ideal opportunity to achieve a smaller state by the back door.

So…

The only problem with this strategy is that, as we saw in the coalition’s first two years, it would seriously damage the economy, just as Keynes would have predicted. The chancellor has never rejected Keynesian analysis, so perhaps he was well aware of this. So the plan may have always included a temporary pause to austerity before the election, giving the economy time to recover and the chancellor scope for what he hoped would be election winning tax giveaways.

So the real long-term plan was an initial two years of sharp cuts to public spending and the deficit, to be followed by budgets involving tax cuts that would allow growth to resume but rather less deficit reduction. If this combination was enough to win the subsequent election, the recipe could be repeated all over again. Indeed, this is what George Osborne’s post-2015 plans look like. All done in the name of deficit reduction, when the real aim is to reduce the size of the state.

For this plan to work, you need one extra ingredient: a compliant media that buys into the idea that deficit reduction is all important, and that recent growth somehow vindicates the earlier austerity.

Well, we certainly have that ingredient — a compliant media.

Pressed for Time: a conversation with Judy Wajcman

March 17th, 2015 [link]

I had a conversation on March 5 with Judy Wajcman at the Oxford Internet Institute about her splendid new book, Pressed for Time: the Acceleration of Life in Digital Capitalism.

Privacy: who needs it? Er, Zuckerberg & Co

March 15th, 2015 [link]

Who said irony was dead? The tech zillionaires are so blasé about how their users are relaxed about privacy and what is quaintly called “sharing”. But they are not at all blasé when it comes to sharing information about themselves. Google’s Exec Chairman, Eric Schmidt, for example, believes that “privacy is dead”, but went apeshit when some enterprising journalist dug up lots of personal information about him simply by using, er, Google.

And then there’s young Zuckerberg, the Facebook boss, who is likewise relaxed about other people’s privacy, but paranoid about his own. See, for example, this Forbes report on his need to buy up an entire neighbourhood block in palo Alto to ensure that he isn’t overlooked:

So much for Zuckerberg only making a big digital footprint. Now the online empire maker owns nearly an entire neighborhood block, just because he can.

According to property records, the Facebook CEO has spent $30 million over the past year buying the pricy homes of four of his neighbors. It’s within his right, and within his budget, especially with Facebook stock finally starting to march up in value after its controversial and lackluster IPO.

Now the NYT is reporting that he’s updating a house in San Francisco, where even he might not be able to persuade his neighbours to clear out. But builders and tradesmen working on this nouveau palace find that they have to sign Non-Disclosure Agreements lest the world should know which kind of bidet the infant zillionaire favours.

So what kind of time will you get from the iWatch?

March 15th, 2015 [link]

This morning’s Observer column:

A few months ago I bought a “smartwatch”. I did so because there was increasing media hype about these devices and I don’t write about kit that I haven’t owned and used in anger. The model I chose was a Pebble Steel, for several reasons: it was originally funded by a Kickstarter campaign; a geek friend already had one; and, well, it looked interesting. Now, several months on, I am back to wearing my old analogue watch. The Pebble experiment turned out to be instructive. The watch was well made and well presented. It had reasonable battery life and the software was easy to install on my iPhone. The bluetooth link was reliable. Its timekeeping was accurate, and it could display the time in a variety of ways, some of them humorous. One could download a variety of virtual watch-faces, and so on.

So why is it not still on my wrist? Well, basically most of its “features” were of little or no actual use to me; and for much of the time, even apps that I would have found useful – such as having the watch vibrate when a text message arrived – turned out to be flaky: sometimes they worked; more often they didn’t. Which of course led to the thought that if anybody can make the smartwatch into a successful consumer product that “just works” it would be Apple. And indeed it was amusing to note how many people who, upon seeing the Pebble on my wrist, would ask me: “Is that the new Apple Watch?”

Well, now the Apple Watch is here and we will find out if the world really was waiting for a proper smartwatch to arrive…

Read on