The Umbrella Man

September 19th, 2014 [link]

The Umbrella Man from The New York Times – Video on Vimeo.

Whenever I hear someone outline a beautifully-constructed conspiracy theory I think of Errol Morris’s video.

In a national surveillance state, privacy is seen as “a luxury of the guilty”

September 19th, 2014 [link]

Terrific piece by Andrew O’Hagan on Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald in the London Review of Books.

Sample:

Surveillance in the UK is an implicitly sanctioned habit that has smashed the moral framework of journalism. Protection of sources is not an adornment, not some optional garment worn only when it suits, but a basic necessity in the running of a free press in a fair democracy. Snowden proved that, but not to the satisfaction of Britain’s home affairs establishment, or the police, who like to behave as if all freedoms are optional at the point of delivery. [Alan] Rusbridger recently made the point that source confidentiality is in peril, after the revelation that the Metropolitan Police had spied on the phone records of the political editor of the Sun, Tom Newton Dunn. Snowden might have taught us to expect to be monitored, but his message, that our freedom is being diluted by a manufactured fear of the evil that surveillance ‘protects’ us from, is not being heard. Louder and clearer to many is the message that comes from the security state mind, a suspicion carried on the air like a germ, that certain kinds of journalism, like certain aspects of citizenship, are basically treacherous and a threat to good management. This germ has infected society to such a degree that people don’t notice, they don’t mind, and a great many think it not only permissible but sensible and natural, in a culture of ‘threat’, to imagine that privacy is merely a luxury of the guilty.

And this:

The first thing that amazed me about Julian Assange was how fearful he was – and how right, as it turned out – about the internet being used as a tool to remove our personal freedom. That surprised me, because I’d naively assumed that all hackers and computer nerds were in love with the net. In fact, the smarter ones were suspicious of it and understood all along that it could easily be abused by governments and corporations. The new technology would offer the chance of mass communication and networking like never before, but lurking in all those servers and behind all those cameras was a sinister, surveilling machine of ever growing power. The US government sought omniscience – ‘a system that has as its goal the complete elimination of electronic privacy worldwide’ – and showed by such actions that it considers itself above the prospectus set out in its own constitution. The leaders of the NSA said, ‘collect it all,’ and the people put up with it.

On this day…

September 18th, 2014 [link]

Historic day, eh? The Royal and Ancient Golf Club, Golf’s governing body, votes today on the thorny issue of whether to admit women as members.

Oh, and the people of Scotland also vote on whether they want to be independent or not.

(Which makes one wonder what will the “United Kingdom” be called if they vote “yes”. The two candidates I’ve heard so far are fUK — “former UK” — and UK-lite).

UPDATES

  1. The R&A decided to admit women members.
  2. The Scots decided that it was still the UK, not the fUK.

So did they really go to the moon in 1969?

September 15th, 2014 [link]

This is 13 minutes long, but worth every second. In it film-maker S.G. Collins argues that in 1969, it was easier to send people to the Moon than to fake the landing in a studio. Technologically speaking, he says, it was impossible to shoot that video anywhere other than the surface of the Moon. A lovely piece of debunkery, filmed with the assurance of an Errol Morris.

Old Amsterdam

September 15th, 2014 [link]

Old_Amsterdam_blog

Just came on this photoshopped version of a photograph I took in 2003 from a boat on an Amsterdam canal. The building in the background is the Rijksmuseum. Corny but nice.

Everything is connected…

September 15th, 2014 [link]

Yorks_sculpture_park

… even in the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

Photograph by Douglas McArthur.

Quote of the Day

September 15th, 2014 [link]

We are stuck with technology when what we really want is just stuff that works.

Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt

Apple Pay’s revenue stream

September 15th, 2014 [link]

Further to my Observer column yesterday, this from Bloomberg.

Apple Inc. (AAPL) will reap fees from banks when consumers use an iPhone in place of credit and debit cards for purchases, a deal that gives the handset maker a cut of the growing market for mobile payments, according to three people with knowledge of the arrangement.

That’s a small cut on millions of daily transactions. Adds up to a formidable revenue stream.

Quote of the Day

September 14th, 2014 [link]

You know what a learning experience is? A learning experience is one of those things that says, “You know that thing you just did? Don’t do that.”

Douglas Adams in The Salmon of Doubt

Why Apple Pay was the big news from Apple

September 14th, 2014 [link]

This morning’s Observer column

In the long view of history, though, the innovation that may be seen as really significant is Apple Pay – an ingenious blend of contactless payment technology with security features that are baked into the new iPhones. Apple Pay will, burbled Tim Cook, “forever change the way all of us buy things… it’s what makes the iPhone 6 the biggest advancement in the history of iPhones”.

The idea is to do away with the rigmarole of having to pull out a credit/debit card, insert in a store’s card reader, type a pin, etc. Instead, you simply bump your iPhone (and, eventually, your Apple Watch) against the store’s contactless reader and – bingo! – you’ve paid, and the store never gets to see your card. Why? Because Apple has stored the card details in heavily encrypted form on your device and assigned each card a unique, device-specific number, which is accepted by the retailer’s contactless reader.

This only works, of course, if the retailer has already signed up with Apple. Cook claimed that 220,000 US retailers have already opted in to the system, as well as six major banks, plus MasterCard, Visa and American Express – which means that 83% of all US credit card payment volume can theoretically already be handled by Apple Pay.

If true, this is a really big deal, because it puts Apple at the heart of an unimaginable volume of financial transactions. In a way, the company is now doing to the card payment business what it did to the music business with the iTunes store…

Read on