* Posts by Brennan Young

134 posts • joined 12 Aug 2006

Don’t leak WikiLeaks: The NDA from hell

Brennan Young

Roll out the Tiresome Chorus of Assange Bashers

There may be many examples of poor style, or overzealous reactions from Assange and his allies, but the these are more than eclipsed by the war crimes and atrocities being done daily in the name of our so-called democratic institutions.

Nobody has mentioned that Wikileaks takes exquisite care to release only the information which will not endager lives. They may err, or misjudge in some cases, but I have yet to see an example of a civilian or military death which resulted from a leak published after wikileaks released it.

There are (therefore) other more important, and wholly ethical reasons than making money, which would behoove Wikileaks to strictly control their 'crown jewels'.

All those that celebrate the principle of 'free' leaks from wikileaks are arguable ethically worse-positioned than wikileaks themselves - unless you can point to some kind of code of practice which would also prevent civilian and military casualties.

-also, when banks and credit card companies *illegally* block sources of income from donations, how else do you expect the organisation to pay the bills?

I am getting really tired of the ad hominem attacks on Assange in the reg forums. Sure he's not an angel, but most of the criticism of him seems to consist of ridiculing his vanity, and his eagerness to secure a decent financial footing for wikileaks and its employees. I will continue to regard these attacks as spiteful, cowardly and tiresome, especially for as long as the war criminals Wikileaks exposes, and those that undermine the validity of democratic values are still considered paragons of virtue, just because they have more extensive PR resources.

DIY kit computer goes Forth against Braben's RaspberryPi

Brennan Young
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Language Choice

There is a book for kids to learn programming, and it uses python. I forgot the exact title, but it's probably something like "Programming for Kids".

I can also appreciate the value of Processing, because it is so visual, and can be treated rather like Logo if you approach it in the right way, although we can ask ourselves whether the 'curly bracket' languages (C family) deserve another generation of potential bigots who are all fingers and thumbs the moment they are required to use a different syntax (e.g. python, lisp family, pascal family).

We've already seen complaints here about python's use of white space, as if the C family had nothing equally rotten in its syntax. (I have no preference, but I have yet to see a convincing argument as to why white space is such a liability in python).

I haven't looked at scratch. We could also mention Squeak and other Smalltalk variants, which was designed for kids in the first place.

I'd also cast a vote for javaScript, which as Douglas Crockford points out has the largest installed base of runtimes of any high level language. If you approach javaScript the right way (treat it like Scheme, not Java) you can do amazing, beautiful things that would make any computer scientist glow with pedagogical enthusiasm.

Boffins develop method of driving computers insane

Brennan Young
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An early cybernetic idea

One of the earliest (1940s) explicitly cybernetic ideas arose in the interchanges between Norbert Wiener and Gregory Bateson, and it went something like this "How would you design a machine which could act like a schizophrenic?"

This (what we would now call) 'reverse engineering' of insanity guided decades of research by Bateson into the nature of schizophrenic communication, leading to the 'double-bind' hypothesis, the application of Russell's theory of logical types to communication theory, and Bateson's conclusions - and demonstrations - that similar patterns drive creativity and evolution itself.

We should have had a clue from the schizophrenics themselves, who invariably have paranoid fantasies about 'machines' or technologies which control their minds (or the minds of everyone else) and make them crazy. The machines are indeed real, but they are made of flesh and blood, laws and rules rather than metal and microelectronics, although the internet has opened up the possibility of software which could generate schizophrenia in its users. (There's an app for that?) You can pick your own examples of software which 'drives you mad'.

What's missing here, then is not the banale conclusion that the machine was 'acting all crazy', but that it was making wild creative leaps, and quite literally 'thinking out of the box' which is something that has eluded AI research for decades. Good stuff.

How is SSL hopelessly broken? Let us count the ways

Brennan Young

Business as usual

I read the reg *because* they get their beaks and talons into almost every person/company/technology (although it's clear that individual hacks have their favorites).

Check the masthead slogan - it has always been so.

New charge against alleged WikiLeaker carries death penalty

Brennan Young

War crimes

are unambiguously defined by international, NOT national law. AC is right and you are wrong. The Nuremberg trials established that invading another country without the go-ahead from the security council is the *supreme* war crime. Issues of collateral damage and civilian casualties are precisely covered by the definition of supreme war crime. Look it up.

USA is bound by this law, which trumps national law, like it or not. Only the US politicians and mass media conspire to hide or gloss over this fact from those who swallow their propaganda unchewed. The typical defense is that such laws undermine US sovereignty, and are therefore worthless, or that the UN is ineffectual (a self-fulfilling prophecy because the USA regularly undermines its authority, and then criticises them for having no authority).

But the fact remains that the USA *is* a signatory of the international law on war crimes, and is therefore bound by it. A congressional vote is irrelevant - or rather, it somehow could make congress accessories to the supreme war crimes of invading Iraq (and Afghanistan). Ask a lawyer.

And it is the USA which has the largest stockpiles of biological weapons. They also have plenty of other WMDs. Does this mean that any other country has the right to invade them? Are you really saying it's legally and/or morally 'right' to invade a country which has WMDs simply because WMD's are dangerous? What about China, or France, or Israel? I believe AC understands the threat very well indeed, and I imagine that he/she correctly estimated the danger from Saddam's WMDs at zero. You, however, are not prepared to hold the USA and other coalition countries to the same standards you wish to impose on other countries. This is pure hypocrisy.

We now know that Saddam had no WMDs, exactly as the UN weapons inspectors told us at the time. Clearly, they know their business, but the US media exposed Hans Brix and others to ridicule and character assasination. But the weapons inspectors were *right*. They did their job properly and reported the truth in their findings repeatedly before the war began. Many of us suspected it back then, and we went on the streets to demonstrate about it. Even the CIA knew it, and were forced to provide hokey 'evidence' for Colin Powell's shameful and dishonest speech to the security council. Dozens of CIA employees have since resigned over this heinous travesty of their skilled and difficult work.

And the idea that the Americans 'fell for it' is disingenuous in the extreme:

The *American* CIA spooks and the *American* military knew Saddam had no WMDs, but Bush/Cheney insisted on evidence. The CIA were obliged to turn over whatever junk evidence they had - evidence that they *knew* to be pure fabrication. The CIA repeatedly told the Bush administration that there was nothing but junk evidence about WMDs or any connection between Saddam and Al Qaida, so Bush/Cheney stepped up the waterboarding until they got some 'operationally useful' confessions - i.e. junk evidence from the mouths of enemy combatants, rather than the fictions of CIA spooks.

It is not difficult to find the statements of ex-CIA employees or ex US-military personnel who have gone on record with their grievances about this, but I suspect you are not interested in looking for data which undermines your views, and would rather echo the mountains of propaganda which supports them.

It was junk evidence, commissioned by the Bush/Cheney administration which ordinary Americans were 'taken in' by, Bush/Cheney's own propaganda, cynically and intensively peddled by Murdoch and others.

I find it quite extraordinary that you, or anyone else, attempts to play the WMD card, as a post facto justification for the Iraq war, as it has been so thoroughly and extensively debunked, so often, that surely only the most gullible and naive still believe in it. Even Tony Blair has stopped using it as an excuse. It makes you, Mr Gumby, come across as a gullible fool which can't be entirely true. Of course there are still people that still believe the sun goes around the earth, which I also find extraordinary. I am sure they are not complete fools either.

You wrote something sarcastic about letting the facts get in the way.

I ask without sarcasm: How do *you* rationalise ignoring these facts?

Park the Mario Kart, and throw your keys in the bowl

Brennan Young
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Tittle must cuntain bums and/or pricks

At first I was thinking that this kind of mild horseplay was a bit daft. If you want a sex party, then have one, for goodness sake, but I suppose I am not in the target group. It will probably be a hit with anxious teenagers who desperately need an excuse to say things like 'insert this long hard object down your pants'.

In my day we had to make our own entertainment. (Spin the bottle, postman's knock, kiss chase, felch the bulldog etc. All non-electronic and requiring only the most simple equipment).

I do think it could be an interesting new trend, and I'd like to see them make a much kinkier version, using the glam rock aesthetic from games like guitar hero, and of course the game should come with a pack of wipes.

Say it with pictures

Brennan Young

data connections?

There are some good leads to follow up here. What I am especially interested in is how to generate diagrams from (especially online) data sources e.g. rss or csv feeds. This is touched upon in relation to visio, but only in passing.

Any chance of a rundown of those tools which specifically address this approach?

And shouldn't lower-level code-based visualisation tools like Processing or even HTML-5's Canvas be mentioned?

After all, the most interesting feature (and surely the future) of screen-based (rather than print-based) infographics is allowing the browser/user to manipulate the view, i.e. what used to be called 'interactivity' - not just in making histograms or UML more pretty, and easier to draw.

Nokia's developers wait and wait for Windows Phone

Brennan Young

Pendant is as pedant does

A squib is not a broken firework. It's a (non-recreational) firework, so dampness or not is a significant quality.

Harder to read = easier to recall

Brennan Young
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Make keywords less legible

Another correspondent complained about the effect this might have on 'skimming'.

The lesson here could be, make the important keywords fuzzy, and do the filler text in clear Arial or Helvetica. Could be an interesting next step in this research.

Consider that 'Simples' campaign, or even 'Think Different' - both of which generated plenty of free PR as people discussed the grammar and/or spelling.

Renowned hypnotherapist Milton Erickson used to use bad grammar or mispronounce specific words deliberately in order to get the listener's unconscious mind to activate and 'work harder'. This would make the hypnotic suggestions more memorable because the subject would make them more his own.

Microsoft disputes Apple's 'App Store' trademark

Brennan Young
Gates Horns

It's the 'store' bit which is innovative, not 'app'

So much talk about 'app'. Yes the word predates the iPhone. Get over it. And as others have pointed out, NeXT/OpenStep/OSX executables have the .app suffix, rather than .exe. which is not insignificant. (I often imagine that .exe is short for "execrable"). Also the Mac has always had an 'Applications' folder, whereas Windows has always had 'Program Files'.

OK, that's that but AFAIK there was no in-device software 'store' before the app store.

Best you could do before iPhone apps was go to one of those woeful and scary looking handheld-software review sites, with some kind of e-commerce thing bolted on. They always had the impression of being run by eastern european gangsters and riddled with malware, and often seemed to offer endless opportunities of carrying you into some kind of link-farm labyrinth.

Making a piece of software which strictly controls the process of buying and installing software which runs on the very device where the software will eventually run, and calling it a 'store' is something innovative.

Granted it's not like discovering gravity, or inventing free market capitalism, but it *is* an innovation. IMNSHO this gives Apple good reason for laughing Microsoft's petty dispute out of court.

As for 'Windows', it's a name which has always made me nauseous because it implies that other OSen don't have windows, or that Microsoft invented the concept, whereas Windows was very much the catch-up windowing GUI tech in the mid 1980s. Rather hilariously, the 'windows' in Windows version 1 could not overlap and could not be dragged around the screen. Nobody these days would recognise such a GUI element as a 'window' today.

Android-powered touchscreen Wi-Fi headphones offered

Brennan Young

Been waiting

...for a set of headphones with built in mp3 player (and removable storage). (No wires!) But a touch screen interface is a royally stupid idea, as others here have pointed out. I would want to be able to control the whole thing using only tactile feedback (i.e. fingertip control), so I can keep the damn things on and keep my eyes on the road/tv/legs of the girl on the escalator while I skip around my music.

Why is the tech industry obsessed with graphic displays? We have at least 4 other perfectly good senses (or 11 more, if you follow Rudolf Steiner). It's like the ipod you now have to take out of your pocket and look at, in order to operate it.

Assange: Text messages show rape allegations were 'set up'

This post has been deleted by a moderator

Christians vs metalheads in FB flame war

Brennan Young

Pedantry alert...

The inverted crucifix is, first and foremost, the symbol of St. Peter (who elected to be crucified upside down, to show everyone 'ow 'ard he was. Did I say 'ard? I meant pious, obviously.)


The symbol is not uncommon in St Peter's cathedral in Rome. The catholics in this story evidently had too many other dogmatic details to keep in mind.

Multi-colour e-ink to splash down in six months?

Brennan Young

what's wrong with monochrome

I must join the chorus calling for affordable monochrome e-ink *today*. Why, if the tech is working fine are they dragging their feet getting products to market? You can still buy monochrome laser printers, and they are still really useful machines - not to mention cheap.

I suppose this obsession with color is driven by the fantasies of marketing men, and hardware firms looking for fat margins - but really, I only need 2 bits of grey - or even 1 bit of black/white to read Dickens or Dostoevsky, or indeed 99% of the project Gutenberg texts comfortably.

Capitalism fails to deliver again.

Mozilla Labs pops out JavaScript language tool for coders

Brennan Young

JavaScript IS Lisp

...well Scheme really. It just looks a bit like C, and unfortunately 99% of web developers treat it like C, which is why we have such a horrible mess.

Please check out the book "JavaScript - The Good Parts" for more information on using Scheme - sorry, JavaScript - in the browser.

Microsoft delivers Google Chrome IE9 beta

Brennan Young

No HTML5 on MSIE on XP - MS hands over even more market share


how long time it takes certain people to upgrade from one MS OS to another,

and considering that

IE9 will be for Vista and Windows7 only (not XP)

and considering that

IE9 will be the only MS browser which supports HTML5,

... it would seem that the mooted 2025 date for HTML5 being fully established is quite accurate.

Happiness: Yours for £50k a year

Brennan Young

Tax increases for the rich!

If this is true, there's no need for anyone to feel bad about increased taxes for rich people, right? Score for social democracy!

(I've always been skeptical of rich people's claims that high taxes for rich people will fail to motivate them to exploit poor people efficiently).

Microsoft to embrace and extend HTML 5?

Brennan Young

IE6 market share is below 7% today and falling every month. There's nothing to explain.

The Netscape/Sun idea of abstracting away the OS so that you could do useful work on 'any' computer was smart, and was the most significant threat to Microsoft's hegemony in the 1990s, which is why MS were rather obliged to pull all those dirty tricks, which got them in hot water with the antitrust boys, and which still echoes in the EU-enforced browser chooser.

Now it's google which is promoting exactly the same thing with a completely adequate productivity suite, leveraging the various advantages of cloud-based computing, and concealing the disadvantages. Instead of LiveConnect, they're using optimised javascript which is (as Mr Crockford points out) the worlds most (un)popular scripting language - a descendent of LISP with C syntax.

Microsoft must be peeing their pants at the prospect of losing not just one cash cow (MS Office) but both (Windows). Considering that MS loses money on almost every other aspect of their business, it's no wonder that they are now banking on Bing to compete directly with google at *their* game, and it's no wonder that there are competing factions within the mastadon.

Microsoft has simply grown too big, with various departments producing software which compete with (and are incompatible with) the products of their other departments. We're seeing in-fighting and the legacy of inflexible business models, which indicate that they got addicted to the milk of their own cash cows and forgot that there are other nourishing drinks - with considerably less fat - which might be made available for free.

MS is moving too slowly to keep up with the rest of the industry, which is sad, because I was just beginning to like them. Maybe they would have been more viable today if the DOJ had split them in two.

As for using HTML5 for making the GUI of 'real' (i.e. not web-based) apps. I have to ask 'why not'? XAML and HTML5 are both markup languages, why should one be better than the other? The processor intensive work (e.g. video decompression) should/could be handled by appropriate hardware anyway, and we haven't yet seen the impact of GPUs on non-graphical number-crunching tasks like real-time audio filtering. (This positions Apple in a very advantageous spot).

HTML5 can be optimised with the right tools and be no worse than Qt or any of the other presentation frameworks.

Robots capable of 'deceiving humans' built by crazed boffins

Brennan Young

Show me a GUI which does not deceive the user.

Philip K. Dick wrote a short story in the 1960s about a robot which could camouflage itself as a TV set, sneak into people's homes, commit murder, and then leave evidence at the crime scene to frame some innocent human being or other. I forget the title, but it's in 'The Golden Man' collection.

I too go with the 'computers deceive regularly' meme. I subscribe to constructivism, which points out quite scientifically that the evidence of our senses is largely illusory, and any resemblance to reality - whatever that is - is rather coincidental.

Or, to put it another way: Show me a GUI which does not deceive the user, in some important respect.

New iPod crew: 'Phoney, futuristic, retro, doomed'

Brennan Young

Actually no

It IS confusing when a control has mutliple functions, and at the very least it puts greater cognitive demands on the user, because the user has to maintain a 'stack' of presses which is difficult in stressful or cognitively loaded situations. (q.v. "was it six bullets or only five? To tell you the truth, in all the excitement..." - yes even Dirty Harry is not immune to this problem of 'how many times did I operate the control'?).

See my other reply about accessibility. My daughter would have to spend so much time working out the 'code' for the multiple button pushes that she would lose interest totally.

My preference: As few buttons as necessary, but no fewer. One button per function. (I can accept play/pause on the same button, but would prefer that they were seperate).

Brennan Young
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Physical buttons and Accessibility

2nd generation iPod shuffle remains a great design, with the built-in clip, physical buttons you can operate with your hand in your pocket, and the user's own choice of headphones, so I too am pleased to see the design return.

Having the controls on the headphone cable was just stupid, and an lousy excuse to charge exorbitant prices for mediocre headphones. My guess is that Apple noticed a drop in sales when they switched to the 3rd generation.

In my case, I have a multihandicapped daughter who loves music and loves pressing buttons. She has cortically impaired vision. She has a 2nd Generation iPod shuffle plugged into a cheap-as-chips portable handheld amplifier. We've tried her with touchscreens, but her vision is really not good enough. She needs to FEEL the buttons.

So... now I know what she will be getting for christmas - especially if belkin or some such produce a little handheld amp with a neat housing for the new shuffle. The shuffle is cheap enough that we can have several of the things about the house, and she can switch to another one when she wants to hear another playlist.

I often prefer to operate devices in the dark, in my pocket or whatever, without using my eyes. A physical button is still more 'sound' feedback for the fingertips than a short vibration (which affects the whole hand). If they can localise the vibrations on the screen somehow, we might be getting somewhere, but for now...

Touchscreens are an accessibility nightmare for anyone with partial sight or any kind of blindness.

Ball lightning is all in the mind, say Austrian physicists

Brennan Young

Reproduce it in the lab, then, "boffins"

If it can't be reproduced, it's a junk hypothesis

Mozilla: 'no plans' to bundle Flash with Firefox

Brennan Young

This is about MSIE I think

This is not just about ads.

MS were terrified of liveconnect because of the threat of seamless communication between plugins and javascript, which would have abstracted the OS away behind the browser, hence their (successful, but unlawful attempt to derail it).

Google sees the extended functionality in the browser offered by ActionScript 3 as yet another nail in the coffin for Windows. They know they wont get everyone on board HTML5 and Ajax, so Flash serves them in the sense that it can help make Windows irrelevant when running browser-based 'cloud' (ugh) applications. (You can do a quite decent asynchronous browser app in Flash, it's just that generally, people don't).

For strategy reasons, it's unlikely they will give silverlight the same special treatment.

Flat-pack plug designer wins top award

Brennan Young
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What John 186 said

Yes, I am dreaming of a low voltage adaptor with multiple outputs, and where each output can have its own voltage and connector.

I know you can get low voltage adaptors with switchable connectors and a voltage setting control, but it is scarcely a solution to the rather stupid problem of needing to use one high voltage power socket for every low voltage device. Maybe I just don't understand Ohm's law properly, but it seems like this should be technically possible.

I seem to remember (from my rock band days) that guitar effects pedals (from certain manufacturers) could be chained together so that you only had to plug one of them into the wall.

Maybe I was just stimulating my imagination too much back then, but I know we also had an open standard for digital music around 1983, which - extraordinarily - everyone agreed upon and still uses. Sometimes musicians have nifty ideas decades before the rest of the tech community has even realised which end its arse is pointing.

Brennan Young

OK, I wasn't dreaming

The 'Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 Plus '


...is designed for guitar effects pedals (so it has a low hum circuit design), but could be used for any low-power devices, which run on voltages which are a multiple of 9. (You can combine two outputs for 18v, etc.) Brilliant!

Expensive, though.

iPhone ego clash costs Flash at Virgin America

Brennan Young
Jobs Horns

Good, sober, slightly boring article

Seems to me that Apple has scored a huge PR win with its anti-flash gesturing. Don't the journalists realise they are deep-throating Cupertino? Apparently they are only thinking about their deadlines. (Question 2: Doesn't Adobe have a spin doctor???)

Look, Flash is actually a very good technology, politics aside. Shame Adobe don't have a fecking clue how to leverage it. They are about to hand the crown over to the hairy HTML5 hippies. (I am a hairy hippy myself, but the loose and forgiving HTML5 standards gives me the willies. Hey, I LIKE xHTML 1.0 Strict !!! Validation errors are a GOOD THING).

I am also a long time Mac user, but I am disgusted by Apple's recent cockiness about Flash, which confirms the worst criticisms made against them over the years. Who's going to help unskew the market? Google? Yeah right. Nowadays it is Microsoft which looks like the good guy. Can't believe I am writing this, but that's IT for you.

Quantum superclock will be accurate past end of life on Earth

Brennan Young

Clocks and Timepieces

OK, if the pedants are having a go at the definition of "second", I'd like to point out that a 'clock' is a chronograph which has bells on.

If there are no bells (or whistles, or other alarm or striking mechanism) it is merely a 'timepiece'. No indication of any bells on this new-fangled quantum chronograph.

(My father is a horologist).

Teletext toddles off as licence taken

Brennan Young

Still the best tech...

...for finding out what's on tv right now and later tonight. (Amazing! It's the same device I am watching which tells me what's on in half an hour. Don't even need to open my laptop!).

I had no idea that 'teletext' was a brand name. I though it was the generic name for the technology behind Ceefax, Oracle etc. (What IS the generic name for it, then?)

I am dismayed that the BBC and others are starting to drop this ugly but information-efficient (1KB per screen!) technology.

A web page is just not usable enough - not only do you have to fire up a different device (even a set-top box is another device!) but also, each channel has its own layout, and differing levels of detail etc. Maybe at one point all TVs will be able to go on the net and download programme listings. This no-brainer feature will certainly come... my guess is it will be in 10 years time.

BTW I am rather fond of the open source Java-based app "TV-Browser", which aggregates dozens of channel programming feeds into a fairly simple GUI. Check it out. If only the RadioTimes would fix the problem that the BBC Entertainment feed is spitting out the BBC Prime feed by mistake. Grrr.

Finally I would like to say that I was an avid user of the teletext mode on the BBC computer, and lusted after a 'teletext adaptor' - a device which could have impressed the pre-web internet users of the mid 1990s, even if it came out in the mid 1980s.

Teletext rocks!

Judge Dredd 'Black Box' recorder/spy kit for guns unveiled

Brennan Young


The gun lobby tend to have a "nothing to hide = nothing to fear" attitude - at least those that have any claims to respectability. This device will certainly split them into two camps. Bravo!

BTW - why does 'Remember me on this computer' never remember my password? (A password which I can not change to something easy to remember). Yes I do have cookies enabled.

WarMouse pushes gamers' buttons with OOMouse

Brennan Young
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conservative reg readers

Amazing how conservative you folks are.

Yes, it looks ugly, but the way I see it, there should be at least as many buttons on a mouse as you have fingers. Any less is missing a trick.

Nobody is forcing anyone to buy this device, and let's face it, the scroll wheel is the first innovation in mouse design since Engelbart's 1968 original. (Why has nobody thought of making the ubiquitous office swivel chair into an input device?) Engelbart also devised several other 'no-brainers' including the ancestor of Endfield's Microwriter which have not caught on. Users were able to achieve extremely high typing speeds on those 'finger-chord' keyboards' ridiculed by 'Poor Coco' above, who clearly has no idea that they used a mnemonic finger pattern system, rather like sign-language, and not ascii codes. Once there was a good excuse why such innovations did not catch on (expense and lack of standards), but now we have USB.

BTW did anyone try the Oberon operating system? (Circa 1987). It used an ingenious 'chording' system with its three mouse buttons: Hold down one button while clicking another and you 'copy' the selection to the clipboard, for example. They also used up to four cursors. One for 'source parameter' one for 'target object', one for 'selecting' and one for 'execute'. It might not be the best design, but at least Wirth and co were thinking out of the box.

The mouse and the keyboard are the computer's primary 'sensory organs'. Should innovators not work to increase the bandwidth of their inputs? Increasing resolution of the motion sensors is one thing, but why not have pressure sensitive or velocity sensitive buttons? (256 levels of force? Dynamic Photoshop brush sizes? Wacom do this already and it's very, very cool). Imagine a keyboard where you could press harder for bold text etc.

There are many possibilities, but little real innovation. It doesn't help to have a gaggle of IT 'experts' who dismiss any attempt to design something new without actually trying it in their hands - which is what input devices ultimately stand or fall on.

If the OO mouse were the first of many design iterations, I think we would soon arrive at a really good input device. Yes, it looks absurd, but you have to start somewhere - and I think we are seeing the old cliché: innovators are invariably ridiculed until everyone realises the idea was always brilliant.

(How many here will admit to ridiculing the iPod because it lacked a radio? Well, I remember a vast clamour of voices with exactly that opinion. Yeah, I know... It was a long time ago, I never saw any Jews being mistreated... We didn't know what was going on... I can't really remember.... etc.)

I definitely use the 'home', 'page down' and 'page up' keys at least as much as I use the scroll wheel, probably more. Perhaps some of you minimalist/conservatives would rather have the scroll wheel on the keyboard too? Beside the page down' and 'page up' keys would be an 'obvious' place, no?

The real issue is the driver configuration software. Many logitech mice have 5 or more buttons, but the opportunities for configuring those buttons are ridiculously limited. Kensington mice have superb drivers, with finely tuned acceleration control and a proper macro editor but they seem to be going in Apple's direction of 'less is more' in their hardware designs.

So... why not TRY the device before leaping to any 'brilliant' and 'witty' conclusions.

Microsoft's web world shrinks

Brennan Young

Why it matters (to Microsoft especially)

Some folks still don't 'get it'.

If people can do their jobs and run their lives using web based apps like Google Docs and Google Wave, they can do so from *any* operating system which can run the browser which runs the apps.

If it doesn't matter what operating system people use, Microsoft has lost the game.

It's that simple.

That's why MS fought so hard and dirty against Netscape - they were terrified that LiveConnect (plugins+javascript) would form a new platform on which to build strong competition to their core businesses - OS and productivity apps. Now Microsoft's own invention, Ajax, is doing exactly that, and now their hands are tied by the restrictions imposed by the antitrust settlement.

If MS Office is to be 'eaten by web based apps, rather than StarOffice, OpenOffice etc. Windows will become irrelevant.

We're not at point yet. Web-based apps are still slow and clunky by comparison with the standalone equivalents, but the trend is definitely moving in that direction - and the drive towards faster JavaScript engines from everyone except Microsoft is the clearest evidence that the other companies want to go there.

Google is positioned best to win, which should concern anyone who values individual privacy. I don't trust Microsoft either, but at least they haven't been gathering inscrutable browsing data on me for the last 10 years.

Morrissey tells netdepressives to boycott his re-releases

Brennan Young

Paint a Vulgar Picture

Re-issue! Re-package! Re-package!

Re-evaluate the songs

Double-pack with a photograph

Extra Track (and a tacky badge)

A-list, playlist

"Please them , please them!"

"Please them!"

(sadly, THIS was your life)

But you could have said no

If you'd wanted to

(From Smiths - Paint a Vulgar Picture)

Archbishop says Catholics confusing confessionals with couches

Brennan Young
IT Angle


I thought it was the psychiatrists that got the idea from the Catholics.

War, Web 2.0 and the Fail Loop

Brennan Young
Thumb Down


If you know even a little about cybernetics, you will know that things are organised into a *hierarchy* of systems. It's therefore a very incomplete (i.e. wrong) reading of cybernetics which says that 'optimally, everything should be part of a one big feedback loop'. None of the cybernetics pioneers have ever suggested such hogwash.

Guerrilla armies and terrorist cells are just as 'cybernetic' as strict hierarchies like the Israeli army - in fact they are arguably 'more cybernetic', because the feedback loops are constructed close to the problem domain, and are therefore more reflexive - rather than in the increasingly outdated theoretical domain of the western war theorists which require an inefficient 'chain of command' before anything gets done.

More centralisation does not equal more efficient cybernetics. That's a straw man, easy points worth nothing.

I know that Warwick guy is a nutter, but apart from him, the Reg needs to stop bashing the noble [inter]discipline of cybernetics, and recognise, perhaps even with a little humility, that we wouldn't have an internet without it. We probably wouldn't even have the GUI without those 1940s pioneers. (Not to mention James Watt's governor, Harrison's clocks and various ancient Greek and Persian precedents).

Let's get this straight: Cybernetics is hard science (or at least as hard as economics or genetics, which are amongst its many subsets). What's next? Having a go at Gregor Mendel or John Nash? Have you got the chops?

Danish sex museum loses wood

Brennan Young

Listen, little man!

Hanne Stensgaard is definitely no ordinary spokesperson, and is all woman!!! It will be a shame to see the museum close, because it is one of the few places where your own deepest desire is a legitimate subject for reflection and scientific study. Social control begins with sexual control. Don't you forget it, little boy!

007 Warhead screenplay sold for £46K

Brennan Young
IT Angle

The film that was made twice already

OK most Bond nerds know this already, but "Warhead" is an adaptation of "Thunderball", the only screenplay that Ian Fleming himself had a hand in (the book was published afterwards).

The film rights to Thunderball were sold (i.e. 'escaped' from the clutches of EON productions who made/make most of the Bond films) along with the film rights to the Blofeld character, at the end of the '60s which is why Blofeld does not appear in any EON films after "Diamonds are Forever".

'Never Say Never Again' was the first rehash of the Thunderball story, using the Thunderball film rights. (Both stories feature Blofeld stealing nukes and using them to terrorise the free world), and was not an EON production either. Warhead will certainly feature Blofeld stealing nukes and using them to terrorise the free world.

'The character previously known as Blofeld' appears at the beginning of the EON film "For Your Eyes Only", ending up falling down a factory chimney, but he is never named, neither does the name "Blofeld" appear in the credits. Sneaky trick, but you only risk it once.

Shame EON didn't buy the Warhead screenplay, then we could have Blofeld (played by Samuel L. Jackson? or Ben Kingsley?) back in all his glory, with white persian pussy, up against Daniel Craig, without the rigmarole of Blofeld stealing nukes and using them to terrorise the free world.

That's something I'd like to see.

Free from Philips, iRex launches A4 e-book reader

Brennan Young
Thumb Up

Too expensive, but...

I wanna see these things designed for sheet music. Landscape format, and a nice stand, with a massive library of downloadable scores. Could even have a little decorative brass harp at the top.

This would be such an enormous convenience to musicians, who tend to have reams of scruffy music manuscripts, dog-eared fakebooks etc. that get lost, ripped or mixed up, that they might even pay for those downloads.

Extra extra value if the page turns when you play the last bar. (Relatively easy to do with MIDI devices).

US says the next war will be all in our minds

Brennan Young

We'll run out of oil

...long before any of this stuff becomes viable - although Watashi makes an important point: "Mind Control" for military purposes has been around at least since World War I, Goebbels and Bernays, not to mention the Roman Catholic church in the middle ages and the sophists of ancient Greece. Been there, done that.

Hasbro kills Colonel Mustard in the corporate office with the marketing ploy

Brennan Young

Kinda dumb, but then, the game is kinda dumb in the first place

Nice idea, detective game, find the killer (the victim was "Dr. Black" in Cluedo , or "Mr Boddy" in Clue - which is better - duh).

But... but... all that faffing around with a die. It forces all the game mechanics through an unnecessary bottleneck, like almost all dice-driven board games - basically, we're not even doing anything as exciting as 'snakes and ladders', where the random roll of the dice actually means something signficant. In Clue(do) the dice-rolling just delays the action, and adds the kind of tension only a 2-year-old could appreciate.

If you like detective/mystery board games, there are dozens that are better these days, and many that stick more faithfully to the spirit of the 'golden age' (i.e. Sherlock Holmes thru Agatha Christie). Just ask your friendly neighbourhood games shop, or slip off to boardgamegeek.com (excellent!)

So, I really wont miss Clue(do) as a *game*, but I do confess a certain fondness for the 'classic' lineup of characters. Apparently, Hasbro is throwing out the baby and keeping the bathwater.

So now the big question is, how will the audiences of the future be able to decode the references to the game in 'classic' episodes of "I'm Alan Partridge"?

Gas crunch: Jatropha, kudzu, algae and magic to rescue

Brennan Young

Anyone who thinks the world is only 8000 years old...

... will necessarily have a poor grasp of the concept of 'fossil' fuels, and how much time (and what kind of process) is needed to (re)create them. That's part of the problem. You don't just generate the energy equivalent of millions of years of forest sunlight in a few months, or even a few years.

I think this was a great article. Sober and necessary. As others have pointed out, 'the point' of this article is to remind us of the orders of magnitude involved in solving the energy crisis, and to reiterate that *using much less energy* needs to be part of any reasonable solution. This message needs to be stated over and over again, until the petrolheads get a clue, because it is very unpopular. We also need to realise that there is no *single* solution which will replace fossill fuels, which means we need to consider hybrid and combination solutions.

Assuming we discover a 'magic spell' to deal with the problem of nuclear waste disposal, nuclear fission will still never be 'the' solution because of the tricky little problem of 'rogue states' and atom bombs and all that. What are Iran and North Korea supposed to use as a energy source? Oh, right, 'we' just don't care. They don't deserve energy because they hate our way of life. Nice solution.

Well, Kissinger was pushing nuclear fission on Iran before the Islamic revolution. Imagine if their nuclear program had managed to get up and running before the Islamists took over? Wait a minute, what's happening in Pakistan... A 'friendly' country can become a 'rogue' state, and you then have to hope that they have no nuclear program, because by golly dey gonna wanna make dem bombs.

Thorny problem, but some people still say nuclear power is 'the' solution because they are not seeing the whole problem: Any solution to the energy crisis needs to do more than fit within the laws of thermodynamics, and the logistics of large-scale operation. It also needs to be a politically viable solution. Nuclear fission is, above all, too bloody dangerous for *political* reasons. None of the pro-nuke lobby ever deal with this issue, of course.

As for nuclear fusion... More 'magic'? Still a pipe dream (hope is good, but it wont solve the energy crisis on its own). What about harnessing the power of hamster wheels? If we had enough hamsters - deployed over an area the size of Texas... yeah... that might just keep Louisiana's richest districts going until we can think of something better. Don't worry, there's plenty of time. Some of our most reassuring politicians say the Hubbart oil peak is still a few years away...

AJAX browser wishlist call goes unanswered

Brennan Young


Standards compliance is the #1 'feature' request.

I agree DOM is sexier than AJAX, but AJAX is a superset of DOM, so AJAX gets all the attention.

Yes, Speech, sound, video (ability to embed mp3/mp4 or whatever, and seek to a particular moment in that mp3/mp4 regardless of plugin). Support for some kind of labeled cuepoints, would be lovely.

Hey, there's something called SMIL. It's an open standard for multimedia markup, and it's really easy to learn and quite flexible. And there's something called XHTML+SMIL which would allow you to mark up slideshows with music (or whatever) directly into your web pages without any scripting at all. Another open standard. How about actually making use of the specifications that have already been agreed upon years ago?

And what about a 'basic' drawing API? Line, Fill, and such. I could MOVE and DRAW on a VIC-20 (and even CIRCLE on a ZX-Spectrum) in 1982, but the Beta browsers of 2008 seem uninterested in such 'primitive' activities.

Oh yeah, javascript needs a more formal OOP implementation, with classes and type security, instead of all this loose-living prototype stuff which almost nobody uses.

Attack code in the wild targets new (sort of) Adobe Flash vuln

Brennan Young

Contexts for Standalone Player use

All the talk about the plugin, when this issue affects 'only' the standalone player ("projector") version of Flash. But does this include the Flex/RIA version?

I don't suppose the issue affects older versions of the player either, rather maliciously constructed or hacked players.


Steve Jobs rescues freetards from BBC iPlayer wilderness (for now)

Brennan Young

H.264 because Flash Video isn't good enough?

Hey, it's all about INTEROPERABILITY.

Even Adobe has embraced H.264 for future versions of Flash. It's not technically or aesthetically better than On2 VP6 but it *is* an open, non-proprietary standard.

In other words, H.264 will be Flash Video, Real Soon Now. Actually I think the latest version of the Flash player can handle it already, but the Flash video encoder is yet to be updated.

This means it's possible to make a video file which will play on youtube, on any MPEG-4 compliant set-top box, and on the iPod. That's pretty cool, no?

Alabama admits developing country status

Brennan Young

@Curtis Rendon: Definition of 'Third World'

Umm... I believe Mel Collins *is* correct. 'Third World' is definitely a concept that arose during the cold war to specify countries on 'neither' side.

Your definitions may be vaguely true today, and yet not. Where do you get them from?

For example what is a 'failed state'? Doesn't that usually mean a state that the USA doesn't like, doesn't care about and doesn't invade? Like Haiti? (USA didn't exactly invade Haiti, but they did remove the democratically-elected party). Is Venezuela a 'failed' state or a 2nd world country? What about China? As far as I can tell, Venezuela and China are modernising themselves faster than any so-called 1st world countries, whereas the USA looks to be fixing for a mammoth stock market crash Real Soon Now.

1st, 2nd and 3rd World are anachronisms since 1989. (The end of the cold war).

For example: Millions of Americans live so far below the poverty line, that thousands of Indians would be able to look down their noses at them. It's quite proper that poor American states start to define themselves as 'in need of help' from the likes of OLPC, because the US state apparently has ideological qualms about any kind of 'handouts'.

Copyright levy under EU spotlight

Brennan Young

Add the levy...

And then let us share freely. Fair exchange.

DuBreq Stylophone pocket organ makes a comeback

Brennan Young

Re:Space Oddity

There is certainly a stylophone on Space Oddity (quite clearly heard providing the long bass notes under the first sung phrases "Ground control..."), but it is quickly rather upstaged by Rick Wakeman's mellotron playing.

For a clearer blast of stylophone in Bowie's work, listen to "After All" on "The Man Who Sold The World". The stylus sweeps up the metal strip just as he starts to sing the chorus.

Home Sec in anti-terror plan to control entire web

Brennan Young

Doesn't this...

...fall into the category of "being seen to be doing something, anything, when nothing realistic can be done".

In other words, hot air. (As others have pointed out).

The OLPC XO laptop

Brennan Young


OK, so there are plenty of nits to pick, and at all levels, but let's keep things in perspective here. This is the first shot at a PC for people who - for the most part - have scarcely ridden in a bus, let alone used a telephone.

I'm also very skeptical about the idea that a cheap laptop will transform the third world, but OLPC is not the only game in town which has that goal, neither is it an either/or situation. OLPC may well be part of a cluster of initiatives which can pull African (and other extremely poor) countries out of their current miserable conditions.

I'm convinced that the internet has had a positive effect on global politics, not least because grass-roots movements are finally able to organise internationally, and escape centralised power. Dictators can no longer hide behind the smokescreens created by western news editors. Would we even have taken the Monks' protest in Burma seriously if we had had only newspapers, tv and radio? As the most 'underdeveloped' continent in the world, Africa has a lot to gain by getting 'online'.

This could be *part* of something really big, a few years down the line. Let's get away from the quick-fix ideology that western culture has fed us with, and think a bit longer term.

Is it really reasonable to expect they'll get every detail right first time round. Let's cut the project some slack, and stop comparing it with sub-notebooks intended for the developed world.

I quickly accept there are flaws in the design, and in the choice of software (they should have chosen Squeak!) but think evolution, think next iteration. I am quite certain that whatever the OLPC eventually becomes will be something quite different from the likes of the Asus ee.

Readers of the Register are categorically NOT the target market, so our opinions must necessarily have limited value. We know we're smart, but we're not omniscient. It's the users, ultimately, that will shape this product. I don't mean western geeks that buy an OLPC on ebay, I mean kids from Nairobi, Johannesburg or Haiti, and their schoolteachers.

I was interested to see mention of the Acorn platform. I cut my teeth on a BBC Micro, and can vividly remember the day someone came up with a speech synthesiser in pure software, running in 32k of RAM. Something which I am sure the Acorn engineers never even dreamed was possible. I think we need to expect that people will push this machine to the limits we think it has, and far beyond. There are smart people everywhere, even in the third world.

So let's let OLPC go through a few iterations, let them have time to respond to their own users' feedback. It might have a lot of flaws here and now, but it's based on open source software, which means it has the potential to change very fast, without waiting for some board of directors in Seattle or Silicon Valley to decide on a convenient launch date.

I believe the OLPC could go on to become a very interesting device.

The 'Funky Business' consultants want to poke you

Brennan Young

Cluetrain in flower?

Didn't the cluetrain manifesto promote/predict something like this about a decade ago?

Well, they predicted something like this, including the clueless management response.

The real problem is that faecebook (et al.) encourages trivial exchanges rather than ones which might be indirectly useful to the business/market. Inserting ads is no answer, because despite all the hyperbole, it doesn't benefit the users (or their managers) at all.

I dare say that what cluetrain really builds upon is the idea that the company and its market both benefit from a free exchange between workers and customers. All very well, but if all those people are doing is 'pretending' to be vampires and werewolves, it's hard to see faecebook as other than a procrastination enhancer.

What's missing is a way to be on a social networking site 'in the role of' worker or customer. Yeah, you can be a 'fan' or a 'friend' but how useful is that?

The faecebook forums (scattered all over the place) which might be a place for useful exchange of knowledge, information, ideas, feedback etc. tend to get bogged down with endless discussions between christians and atheists, regardless of the actual topic of the forum.

Then there are more sober sites like LinkedIn, whose slogan might as well be "Making Social Networking Boring". Nobody 'hangs out' on LinkedIn because there's nothing useful to do there.

I guess we just have to wait for the next iteration of social networking sites. Faecebook does a lot of things right, and a lot of things wrong. I'm confident that something useful will evolve in social networking, but banking on 'the best of what is on offer today' seems to be foolish.

A better policy would be for enlightened management to encourage controlled experiment with these sites, perhaps even make their own app. If workers realise that management are also watching the timestamps on their newsfeeds, they may behave themselves.

USB 'compact cassette' promises 1980s nostalgia, home taping

Brennan Young

Lousy gimmick, but there are better products...

"Me too" about this being terrible value for money. I like the idea of mimicking the sticker art of 'famous cassette brands of the 80s' although they manage to lose this one selling point be not allowing people to choose their favorite. Gahh! Idiots.

No, if we're talking devices on the mp3/USB/cassette axis, it has to be something like this:


It has sensors to detect the direction and speed of the spindles, so it even responds to FF and RW!


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