Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Freedom to be an idiot?

A student is in prison this evening for making racist abusive comments on twitter.  Googling around, its relatively easy to find what he said, and it is repugnant and disgusting and absolutely utterly inexcusable.  But its still a worrying development that it's possible to be arrested and imprisoned for, essentially, being a horrible person.

I don't like sexism, racism, homophobia, or transphobia and i really don't want to read or hear what horrible people have to say.  But actually, i'd rather they said it, then i know to avoid them.  It's easy to find areas of the net to get angry about, and its just as easy not to go to them and go somewhere more fun instead.

It doesn't take much to start wondering about 1984's Thought Police, who weren't really thought police, but speech police.  We have laws against racial hatred, religious hatred, inciting violence and more, but is social media a platform where these laws should be enforced? And if so, does that mean that works of art or music, or film that can be seen as incitement to riot or insurrection should also lead to arrest?

Would Chuck D be arrested if he wrote these words:

Elvis was a hero to most
But he never meant shit to me you see
Straight up racist that sucker was
Simple and plain
Mother fuck him and John Wayne

in the UK 2012 rather than the USA in 1989?

So where do we draw the line?  The internet is an anarchic medium; anyone can put anything up they like, and that's the beauty of it and it's greatest weakness. The UK doesn't have a constitutional right to freedom of speech as laid down in, for instance, the constitution of the US.  It has a tradition of it though, and that's something that's much harder to get rid of.

The wikiocracy is the voice of the average, and averages can't exist without extremes.  At the extreme ends of humans we see Stalin and Gandhi, both heroes to some and villains to others; we see the greatest levels of stupidity and the greatest leaps of human intelligence.  If we imprison people for saying what's on their mind because we disagree of find it offensive, what happens when someone else takes offence to something we've said?  Are we all ready to defend our words in court?

Monday, 26 March 2012

The Truth shall make ye fret!

Citizen Journalism is what i'm talking about, and the beauty of it is that it can be anything, blogs, twitter, youtube, or even 'proper' news sites like the Guardian whose 'comment is free' section brings blogging into 'real news' territory.

So is letting any old tallulah, delores or harriet write whatever they like going to bring the quality of journalism down. Possibly but i really hope not.  One of the worst things about traditional news outlets, is that they're not reporting 'news', they're reporting 'olds'.  Its confirmation bias, the reason why liberal types read the guardian, wealthy capitalists (or wannabes) read the telegraph, and xenophobic idiots read the daily mail.  Confirmation bias says: i knew that!  See, i was right all along!!!  Jeremy Clarkson agrees so it must be true!! note: if Jeremy Clarkson agrees with you, you're probably wrong.

And ok, blogging, tweeting, vlogging and podcasting, can easily do the same thing, and often does.  Just google an opinion and you'll find someone espousing it, with threads full of comments agreeing with them, no matter how misguided, toxic, or just plain wrong they might be.  So, what is a reader to do in this brave new world of pressless freedom?  How about, search for the question, not the answer, and look at conflicting views.  Remember everyone has an agenda, including you, and maybe, y'know, make up your own mind...

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Controversy Corner. I like windows 8.

Yep, you heard it here first!  You'd think reading the shouting on the interweb, that microsoft's latest offering was in fact, anthrax packaged up in a nice shiny polonium sandwich and seasoned with, ooh, something else nasty that i can't think of off the top of my head.

So what has got the blogotwitsphere screaming 'worst operating system EVER!!!'?  The shiny new metro interface, that's what.  So yes, of course i then google around and find i'm not the only person who likes it.  So there's one other person, as far as i can see.

The biggest problem with metro is that it needs a minimum screen size of 1024x768, which rules out netbooks for 'metro apps'.  And i wasn't that impressed with that when i loaded the consumer preview (aka 'beta') onto my hp mini as, like your average netbook, its screen is 1024x576, which is great for watching movies on long train journeys or using as a telly (as long as its not too far away) but a bit of a pain for a lot of other things.  So while there are a number of hacks around and about for stretching screen size beyond what the native monitor can do, they generally result in the screen looking all horrible and squashed.  And in my world, while yes, functionality yada yada, lets face it, we buy netbooks because they're cute and look quite funky as well as being a 'cheap laptop', which is totally what i wanted when i bought mine, actually!

Tablets?  Well, so far, so meh.  I don't want android actually, i tried it and didn't like it, thanks very much, i want a 'proper' OS, its a computer, not a phone!  And chrome looks interesting and really close to what i'm after, but chromebooks are currently overpriced, although they seem to be coming down. Google aren't precious about dumping ideas that aren't working either, so long term support might be, er, not very long term as they don't seem to be catching on.

So yes, what i want, and what i broke my OEM xp install trying to get before mucking around with a bunch of linux variants, is basically a browser, with a media player, that'll run the vpn software i need to log into my work pc and will fit in a normal size handbag without breaking my spine.

And it has to look nice.  I know that'll probably upset a lot of techie boys, but hey, i spend a lot of time looking at this thing, nasty clonky boxes in shades of grey and blue don't do it for me.  Jolicloud was really close but it had too much extra mucking about, and most of the customise options that make linux great have been switched off.

And you know what's always drove me nuts about windows?  The start button.  The thing that suddenly there's all this mourning for.  I loved Mac OS X when it first appeared, for me the greatest thing about it was the dock, and i've spent any amount of mucking about trying the variants that are around for windows, but the start menu was still around and something i couldn't kill off.

So yes, Windows 8 start screen?  Love it.  Love. It.  So metro apps don't work?  So what, they're aren't any yet anyway!  And a bit of a right-click-un-install frenzy on first use clears the decks nicely for the stuff i want.

So, for instance, this is now my start screen:

Everything i want in one click, nothing that i don't.  If i do want to be able to get at the other stuff then a right click brings up 'all apps' and there they are.  Most are still placeholders, but seeing as i'm not using them, i just want them to stay out of the way anyway, unlike the massive long list in the start menu that i had to climb through to find anything that didn't have a desktop shortcut.

And anyway, if you do want the start button back, there's already an app for that.  I may even try it.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Delete, format, re-install

Here we are again...

I've had a few false starts on this one.  It was originally intended to be a mean and moody slightly orwellian-centred blog about the insidiousness of information management and control in the 21st century and how the surveillance culture and the internet's natural ecology of 'information wants to be free' are naturally colliding with each other in a way that's quite likely to end in a showdown of some kind...

And you may say (non-existent reader person), well, what do you mean 'false starts'?  Yup, well spotted.  There's nothing there.  Because the paranoia that led me to write the first few pithy and well-observed articles also led me to delete the whole thing and consider resigning from the information age entirely..!

But now i'm ready to give it another go...  Cos there's stuff that boings around in my head, and some of it is serious, political, sciencey, challenging, and some of it is wibble about pop culture and shoes and bikes...

And i'm not going to do a biog post either, cos you'll just have to work it out as you go along...